Cynthia, whose visa expired last year, had to face her visa woes and overstay fines when her employer left the country.
Dubai: Don’t wait till last minute to report to authorities if your boss leaves the country and you have to face your visa woes and overstay fines.
Cynthia, not her real name, learnt this the hard way when her boss pleaded with her in December to “wait until he has the money to pay his company fines” so he could cancel her visa which expired in November. Left with no choice, Cynthia agreed.
The Filipina sales representative had finished her two-year contract with the company and was already intending to leave it. But her British employer was out of the country and the business was not doing well.
“My labour permit was cancelled in December but my visa couldn’t be cancelled because our company had racked up fines,” Cynthia, 30, told Gulf News.
Cynthia said her boss, who is currently in Europe, asked her through WhatsApp to work for another month in January and after that he will cancel her visa and pay for her overstay fines after that. Cynthia agreed to this request of her boss.
The retail shop’s sales had been down for months and Cynthia and her colleagues were not getting regular salaries. Their boss “was running the business through WhatsApp” from overseas but they had no assurance if he would ever come back to fix the mess the company was in.
“In June, he told me to pay half of the overstay fines and he would pay the half. That’s when I realised we were going nowhere. He kept giving us only false hopes.”
Cynthia decided to file a complaint at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation but since her labour permit had been cancelled long back, a complaint could not be lodged.
At the immigration, Cynthia was asked to pay Dh7,250 for her overstay fines and produce a ticket to exit the country in August or she would be jailed. Cynthia chose the first option.
“They said had I just complained against my employer right away, they would have considered my case and would have given me a work permit so I could still work legally,” Cynthia said.
As per Dubai Economy’s rules, it is the responsibility of employers to cancel all the visas of its employees if the establishment is shutting down.
But if the employer suddenly leaves the country without giving any notice to the employees, the visa cancellation and payment of employee compensation become a complex process, Attorney Barney Almazar, a licensed UAE legal consultant and director at Gulf Law, said.
“Since the employer is missing, the abandoned employee must first file a case with the labour [Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation] to arrange the cancellation of work permit without the need of employer’s signature. This process is commonly known as cancellation initiated by employee (in contrast with the filing of absconding case by employer),” Almazar said.
Once the immigration officially establishes that the missing employer has left the country, the employee will be given time to file a complaint against the employer.
“The employee is given two months from the unofficial closure of the company to file a complaint. The employee should not use the company visa to stay in the country or wait for the visa to expire before contacting the labour authorities,” Almazar said.
In most cases, these workers are given work permits regardless of the employee’s length of service. No ban will be imposed if the employee reports the unofficial closure of the company within 60 days from its occurrence to the authorities.