News Details

Immigration developments in the MENA Region

Wed, February 21, 2018


United Arab Emirates

On 24 December 2017, the UAE authorities imposed immigration restrictions on select female nationals of Tunisia, preventing them from entering and transiting through the territory of the UAE due to security concerns. While it is not clear whether the immigration ban is still in place, female citizens of Tunisia should expect delays upon entering the UAE (including boarding planes and the passport control process upon arrival), even if they hold valid UAE visit or residence visas.


Effective immediately, Chilean passport holders are eligible for a short-term multiple-entry visitor visa-on-arrival that is stamped at the port of entry free of charge.


Effective immediately, holders of biometric passport issued by Ukraine are eligible for a short-term multiple-entry visitor visa-on-arrival that is stamped at the port of entry free of charge.


The United Arab Emirates’ Cabinet has approved a law that will require foreign nationals seeking employment in the United Arab Emirates to submit a legalised criminal clearance certificate with their visa application. It is anticipated that the new regulation will come into force as of 4 February 2018, but the authorities have yet to disclose further details of the implementation process.


Effective immediately, Egyptian nationals applying for a new employment residence permit sponsored by a company in the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), Dubai International Financial Centre Free Zone (DIFC), the Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA) and the Dubai Creative Clusters Free Zone (DCCA) must process their immigration application through a designated UAE visa service centre in Cairo in order to obtain an entry visa. Applications for Egyptian nationals who are in the UAE (e.g.: on a visit visa) are currently not impacted by this change. 

Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Labour and Social Development has announced that companies with a total headcount of five or fewer workers are exempt from the mandatory monthly levy for employment of foreign nationals, while those with six to nine employees must pay the levy for the number of workers exceeding five. A monthly levy for the employment of foreign nationals must be paid by employers in Saudi Arabia as of January 2018.


With immediate effect, the authorities in Oman will no longer cancel the work visas of foreign nationals who do not have a Resident Card, as a Civil Number printed in the card is now required for the process. This affects foreign nationals travelling for temporary assignments (less than 30 days) who did not complete their post-arrival immigration process and, as a result, did not obtain the Resident Card. Previously, those visitors could have their visa cancelled as the Civil Number was not required for the process.


The Ministry of Manpower issued a decision imposing an immediate suspension for recruitment of foreign national workers in 87 professions across various industries. The suspension is expected to continue for six months.


The Ministry of Interior has increased the minimum salary requirement for the sponsorship of dependent family members by foreign nationals to BHD 400 per month. Previously, the foreign national’s monthly income had to be not less than BHD 250.


The Ministry of Interior has announced a 25-day amnesty period for illegal foreign nationals in Kuwait whose visas have expired without being renewed or cancelled. Effective 29th January 2018, foreign nationals staying in the country without valid immigration authorisation can regularize their status by either leaving Kuwait without facing penalties or by obtaining a valid visa. The amnesty will last until 22nd February 2018.


The Ministry of Interior has reinstated the process allowing holders of entry visas and multi-entry-exit visas that expired before 27 November 2017 to obtain an exit visa at an immigration counter at international airports in Federal Iraq. A fine for the issuance of exit visa after the expiry date of the entry visa has been set at IQD 500,000. Those whose visas expired after 27 November 2017 must obtain their exit visa according to the new process, which entails submitting the request with the respective Ministry of Interior’s Directorate of Residence ahead of departure from Iraq.


Foreign nationals and their employers must account for additional time that is required to complete the immigration process in Egypt due to extensive security screening for all visa applicants and long queues at the Immigration Authority. A personal appearance may be mandatory for the applicant, even if the applicant has issued a notarised power of attorney to a third party.