Businesses across the country are facing a hiring crunch as applicants from several countries, especially those from Arab Spring states, have found getting work visas difficult.
Recruitment companies and hiring managers say that hiring Syrians, Tunisians and Egyptians has become nearly impossible, meaning many positions that would previously have been filled by Arabic speakers are now being taken by westerners and Indians.
“There are specific nationalities that will have problems with visas,” said Amish Rao, a senior recruitment consultant for People Source Management, a Dubai-based company that primarily searches for employees in the Middle East. “They are just not giving them.”
A human resources manager in the capital said filling government jobs has become difficult, and some authorities are considering only Europeans, North Americans and Indians for positions.
However, Liza Elvero, a recruitment consultant for ABC Recruitment in Abu Dhabi, said the situation was now easing for Egyptians – who had encountered problems renewing visas earlier this year – since the election of Mohammed Morsi as president in June.
Officials insist that the UAE has no blanket hiring restrictions, and that the authorities deal with each case on its merits.
“This rumour is not true and is not founded,” said Maj Gen Nasser Al Menhali, assistant under secretary for naturalisation, residency and ports affairs at the Ministry of Interior. “We deal with all people the same way.”
Gen Al Menhali said the country welcomed everyone who was eligible to enter as a tourist, worker or resident.
“We are receiving no complaints on this front,” he said. “We are processing applications as we usually do, smoothly and properly.”
He said the UAE issued visas on a case-by-case basis and that visa denials to applicants of similar backgrounds were a coincidence.
“Let’s say today I get 10 visa applications from Syrian nationals, and I reject one or two. Does it mean I’m putting a ban on all Syrians,” Gen Al Menhali asked. “An applicant might have a criminal record, might be wanted and so on, which would justify denying them entry. This applies to any nationality.”
Recruiters and human resources professionals say that in their experience, workers from Arab Spring countries had been facing difficulties in getting visas. Also, Iranians and Yemenis may find it hard to get residency visas, while Europeans and North Americans rarely had trouble once they had a job offer.
“I’ve been told, ‘Look, it’s pointless to recruit for ‘X’ nationality or ‘Y’ nationality because we won’t get a visa for that person’,” said one recruiter who has worked in Dubai for four years. “It is quite difficult to decipher why bans are upheld or visas denied.”
Ms Elvero said that government companies had directed her firm not to recruit from Yemen, Syria or Libya. “These countries are banned,” she said.
DR, an Egyptian who works in IT, said he was offered a job with an American company in the UAE but the immigration official at the company told him that “issuing visas for Egyptians is not possible”.
“They told me these rules were new and that only Egyptians over 40 years old would be able to get a visa,” he said.
Trefor Murphy, the managing director of the recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley in Dubai, said that the recruitment of certain nationalities could often be attributed to the preferences of the company hiring.
“There are companies that have preferences, and there are locations and countries where they don’t want to take people from,” Mr Murphy said. “I have not seen [UAE restrictions on nationalities] as an issue that we have run up against.”