New regulations have come into force that will make the process of acquiring a UAE work visa more stringent. Applicants now have to produce a certificate of good conduct from their home country, or the country where they have spent the past five years, to demonstrate that they have no criminal record.

Federal National Council officials have said the new, tighter security measures will help create a safer society and safeguard national security.

“The good conduct certificates will prolong the recruitment process and cause confusion to begin with unless there is a well-constructed online system based on passport numbers or Emirates ID,” Graham Boyle, managing director of Global Executive Consulting, told People Management.

“The positives will be increased security within the workplace and fewer people working in grey areas. However, people may get poor conduct certificates based on simple administration errors or because they have been reported for something they did not do. Clear guidelines are needed regarding what specific criteria can lead to either a good or poor conduct certificate,” he added.

Hannah McDermott, director of HR, emerging markets at Gartner, believes the challenge will be for people who have moved around in the last five years. “Knowing that the certificate is a mandatory requirement should mean that it is a priority for anyone who is serious about a change,” she said.

“Abu Dhabi ranked 28th in the Economist Safest Cities Index last year, and it is one of the reasons that a large expat community has chosen the UAE as a place to live. This is another step in that journey towards a safer society. The certificate is already required for those in public sector roles, so it is not unreasonable to require the same for the private sector.”

Jennifer Campori, managing director for Middle East at Charterhouse, did not think the act of acquiring the certificate would prolong the recruitment process. “The time period to obtain the certificate of good conduct can vary country to country, but if you plan for seven to 10 working days that should be fine. Once you have the certificate, the document will need to attested, but this can be done at the time a degree certificate is being attested,” she said.

The certificate, she added, should be seen as a good thing. “Most countries require certificates of good conduct for expatriates as well as individuals that are seeking senior positions. Certificates of good conduct are not new – this is simply a new requirement for the UAE.”

The procedure for obtaining the certificate will vary between countries. “In most countries, the worker has to apply for the certificate personally from a government authority, either the police or a central records bureau,” said Sara Khoja, Partner in the MENA employment practice at Clyde & Co.

For existing expat UAE residents who will in future need to renew their visas, Khoja said the situation is not entirely clear, although it seems unlikely that the certificate of good conduct will be required for those who were granted a work visa prior to 4 February, when the new rules were enacted.

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