Dubai Police has instituted a feature that allows individuals to find out whether are travel bans on them if they are involved in bounced cheques or other financial issues. Image Credit: Shutterstock

A travel ban is the prohibition of an individual from entering, re-entering or leaving the country until the grounds for issuing the travel ban have been dismissed.

Although the UAE does not have an entire legislative framework governing the travel ban system, Article 94 of Federal Law No. 6 of 1973 Concerning Immigration and Residence and its Executive Regulations aims to provide some clarity on the grounds for the imposition and enforcement of travel bans.

Under Article 94, a travel ban may be imposed for several reasons, including breach of immigration laws, unpaid debts, criminal offences and personal affairs. Here, we aim to provide an in-depth understanding of travel bans issued as a result of a labour dispute.

A travel ban should not be confused with a labour ban. A UAE labour ban is restricted to employment relationships governed by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE). Accordingly, a labour ban works in conjunction with the UAE Labour Law as well as the relevant decrees issued by the Ministry.

This ban does not extend to travel restrictions.

In situations where the employment relationship is not governed by MOHRE - such as in the free zones where the employment relationship is governed by the free zone authorities - a labour ban does not apply.

An individual upon whom a labour ban is imposed, regardless of the duration of the labour ban, is still permitted to enter or exit the UAE. However, this person will not be permitted to obtain a work permit from MOHRE.

Such a person may visit the country as a tourist, student or investor. They may also work in areas of the UAE that do not require a MOHRE work permit, such as in the free zones or a government entity.

Instances of travel bans imposed following labour disputes are closely tied to immigration laws. Under the UAE Immigration Law, a travel ban may be imposed on the following grounds:

  • Entering the UAE illegally.
  • Staying in the UAE after the expiry of a visa.
  • Getting involved in employment relationships without obtaining the relevant work permit.
  • Resigning from a job without informing the employer or leaving the UAE without cancellation of the work permit or employer’s visa sponsorship (absconding).

A travel ban in these circumstances may be for any duration of time, including a lifetime. The ban is issued by the competent authorities and may be extended. The aggrieved party, typically the employer, must file a claim with the authority.

The authority will declare the employee as absconding and impose a travel ban. However, MOHRE has declared that the accused employee has the right to appeal the decision of the authority by submitting an application before the immigration authority and may seek the removal of the travel ban.

An important detail concerning travel bans arising out of labour disputes is the legality of the retention of the employee’s passport by the employer. MOHRE has declared that the employer is not entitled to retain the employee’s passport in these circumstances.

Although there are no official UAE government portals that provide a service for checking whether a travel ban has been imposed, the Dubai Police recently launched a free online service enabling individuals to check the travel ban status, if the travel ban has been issued on grounds of bounced cheques and other financial matters.

If there is uncertainty on whether the grounds for the enforcement of the travel ban are limited to bounced cheque cases, the status of the travel ban will have to be checked personally at the Dubai Police department. Alternatively, the status of the travel ban may be checked by an attorney of the individual, provided that the attorney has the individual’s passport copy and an effective power-of-attorney.