Thought Leader – Immigration & Nationality – Executive Expatriate Relocations
Here to give us the story on the immigration and company formation complexities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is Aideen Hopkins of Executive Expatriate Relocations, a Middle-Eastern specialist immigration firm.
Aideen talks about the some of the updates surrounding immigration rules in the Middle-East, the challenges in timing and documentation pertaining to Visa applications, and gives a brief example of how the firm stands as a thought leader in this intricate legal sector.
What would you say are the biggest commercial immigration topics being discussed in the Middle East right now?
A number of nationalities must undergo stringent security checks as part of the immigration process and this can be a challenge for a company that has been through recruitment processes, as it can result in delays in the issuance of a resident visa or even a rejection.
Other rules are also being tightened up, and recently the Kuwait Ministry of Interior increased the minimum salary requirement for foreign nationals sponsoring spouses and dependents for family and visit visas, which may have an impact of the economy and labour market.
Are there any challenges involved in the company formation work you do? How do you help your clients navigate these?
When incorporating a company, certain activities may require a third party approval, for example, a plane charter activity requires a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Dubai Civil Aviation, which will have its own set of requirements, and we assist clients with this so that they may finalise company incorporation.
It can at times be challenging to obtain the required documents when incorporating a company within a free zone – a document issued in one country may be known as something very different in the UAE or may not even exist, therefore we need to work with the client to explain which particular documents are needed and what information should be detailed on them, so that we can match them with the similar documents in the home country, to satisfy the free zone requirements.
You deal highly in Visa application processes; what are the most complex steps involved in this and how do you make it quicker and easier for your clients?
The first challenge for all visa applicants would be document gathering and attestation. For many expats, arriving in the UAE is not necessarily their first overseas appointment, and if they have documents that have been issued in different countries (education degree, marriage certificate, birth certificates), it will be challenging to get these documents attested, as each country differs in terms of processes and timelines, potentially delaying the start of the visa application.
If a sponsor has a step-child, additional documents will be required (attested certificate of custody), and the visa application is processed through the humanitarian department rather than immigration, which has a different process and can take longer, as each application is treated on its individual merits.
The first step in the visa application process is the issuance of the entry permit. During this phase, all documentation is checked and verified, as well as the completion of security checks on the visa applicant. Depending on nationality and background of the applicant, the security checks can take a considerable amount of time and add significantly to the visa process timing, which is frustrating for the employer and the applicant.
At EER, we recommend an ‘Out-of-Country’ visa process, which allows for all the verification and security checks to be completed before the applicant enters the country. On arrival, they then complete the medical and Emirates ID formalities before completing visa stamping.
Can you talk to LM about a specific case you have dealt with in the past, to which you applied particular thought leadership?
It is unusual for a female employee to sponsor her husband, and the visa is usually granted for one year only.
We recently worked with a client in obtaining a three year visa for her husband. Key to the application was the preparation of the paperwork, in ensuring it was clear and well-structured with all supporting documentation available. We met with the immigration officials and clearly outlined the purpose of the application, explaining that the husband was a well-educated, qualified person. We recommended a three year visa and provided clear evidence of the sponsor’s professional qualification, responsibilities and salary.
As a thought leader, what do you offer that other firms don’t and why should clients come to EER for immigration services?
Communication is crucial in the immigration process and in ensuring that the client is fully aware of all the requirements prior to commencing the process, as well as being kept up to date along the way. We have seen a number of clients come to us being frustrated by the lack of communication and information they received from other providers. It is important to set and manage expectations at the start of the process. Many clients come to us once they encounter a problem, and at EER we work with the client to find the best solution for their needs.