Question: Can employers in UAE keep the passports of their employee?
Answer: As per the Labour Law, it is not allowed.
“As the passport is a personal document that the law obliges its owner to keep and show when required by the governmental authorities, it is not allowed for any party to detain the passport except by the official parties with a judicial order and according to the law. Consequently, it will be considered as an illegal action to detain the passport in the UAE except by the governmental parties
– Ministry of Interior, circular 2002
This memo has not been changed since issued in 2002, thus employers are by Law not allowed to keep their employee’s passport longer than required for Visa processing or Visa cancellation purpose for example.
Question: If the employer doesn’t want to return my passport, what are the legal steps I can do?
Answer: If an employer refuses to return the employee’s passport, the employee can register a case against the employer at the Labour office or can even file a police case if needed.
The UAE government officials have repeatedly said that no employer should retain an employee’s passport. Any employer who will violate will face a jail sentence and will pay a fine of up to Dh20,000.
This is the Law and employers must abide, however, it is still very important for employees to read the full contents of any contract you are being asked to sign before signing them to avoid any inconvenience and future dispute.