Khaleej Times, Saturday, Jan 28, 2023 | Rajab 6, 1444
Illegal UAE ‘freelance’ visas, salary discrepancies: Why Philippine govt is adding requirements for contract verification
A Filipino domestic worker whose visa says she is a ‘store manager’, and a
‘project manager’ who earns a meagre Dh1,000 a month. Employment irregularities
like these have prompted the Philippine labour office in the UAE to impose new
contract verification rules.
However, the new policy – which was supposed to take effect on February 1 — had
to be put on hold as many Filipinos in the UAE slammed the additional
requirements, thinking they were nothing but an inconvenience, another mountain
of red tape.
What the expats didn’t know was that the rules were born out of the need to curb
illegal employment and activities. In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times,
Labour Attaché John Rio A. Bautista — who heads the MWO mission in Dubai and the
Northern Emirates (formerly Philippine Overseas Labour Office or Polo) —
explained the cases that pushed them to intervene.
The MWO, previously known as Polo office, had observed several illegal
activities in recent times, particularly when it comes to obtaining residence
“Some people pay and purchase visas to work in several places,” he said. “Many
of them call it ‘freelancing’. However, this is illegal in the UAE. People who
want to freelance must take the legal visa for it.”
Domestic workers, like nannies and housekeepers, cannot apply for the UAE’s
freelance visa. In fact, they will have to be hired through a licensed
recruitment agency under the latest rules.
Despite this policy, the Philippine mission encountered the case of a housemaid
who was on a visa of a store manager. “When we see something like this, we have
to dig deeper and ask for additional documents,” Bautista said.
Dubai resident Maria Cristina, who is currently looking for a nanny, confirmed
that she once had an applicant who claimed that she had her own ‘freelance
“I was surprised because I couldn’t understand then how she was able to get that
kind of visa, when I know that you’ll need to be at a certain skill level to
apply for one. You even have to show proof of income,” she said.
“Then I learnt that some ‘buy’ a visa from a company, which would then provide
them with an employment contract and a residence visa. However, their work is
It is through contract verification — and more stringent measures — that the
Philippine mission is eyeing to curb such practices.
Bautista also gave the example of an expat who had sent in a contract
verification for the post of project manager but with a salary of Dh1,000.
“Again, it is quite obvious that something is not right,” he said. “In this
case, we ask for the bank balance or educational certification to make sure that
everything is legitimate.”
The labour attache lamented how their office drew flak for doing what they had
to do to protect Filipino workers’ welfare. Many critics, who expressed their
frustration on social media, had not understood the move and were spreading
false information, he said.
“There are messages on social media saying that several additional documents
were needed to ensure contract verification,” he said. “However, we would ask
for these documents only if there was a discrepancy or we suspected that
something was amiss.”