Dubai: If you are an expatriate and are thinking of moving jobs in the UAE, be aware that the visa transfer/issuing of a new residence visa and labour card is a complicated process.

However, this process will usually be completed by the Public Relations Officer (PRO) at your previous and future employees.

Be aware of any competitive clauses in the employment contract you have signed, to see if there are any limitations to taking up new employment.

Competitive clauses may include the inability to work for a competitor to your current employer, for up to two years.

To transfer a visa, the new employer needs to gain permission from the previous employer, after gaining approval from the Ministry of Labour.

Residence visas are usually issued for a period of three years. The UAE's free zone visas can usually be transferred from one employer to the next. However, the previous employer needs to agree to the transfer and may need to provide a no objection certificate (NOC). The NOC may need to be provided in Arabic, on headed notepaper, signed by the local sponsor.

If you have a non-free zone visa, it will need to be cancelled before a new visa can be applied for.

You will need to sign a document instructive of a six-month work ban. This ban, however, can be lifted with the NOC from a previous employer.

If a non-free zone visa is cancelled, the new employer may have to pay a fine for the duration of the remainder of the visa, if the employee has not completed a specified period of work. This period is one year for Masters and PhD holders, who can transfer sponsorship an unlimited number of times. It is two years for Bachelors degree or equivalent, and are allowed to transfer twice.

Other categories of employee with lower qualifications are allowed to transfer once during their tenure in the UAE, and must have been working for at least three years for a current employer.

The one-year clause can be exempted under certain conditions, including approval from current sponsor, minimum qualification of a high school certificate, approval from the Minister of the Undersecretary and payment of certain fees.

Under certain rules, labour categories are exempt, provided employers pay Dh3,000. These rules include a company announcing bankruptcy or if the Ministry of Labour cancels a company's license.

If you are in doubt about visa regulations and wish to change jobs/sponsorship, speak to the PRO at your future employers or a member of the Human Resources (HR) department.