Passports held by employers in UAE!!
Rasha sent me and email which had the Subject “Can my employer keep my Passport?”
The answer is NO, a company or employer can not keep the passports of their employees.
A passport is a personal document which is issued by the holder’s government as a means to prove the identity of the holder and to help the holder cross geographical borders.
Since it is a personal document the holder is responsible for its safekeeping and present it to the concerned authorities upon specific request (such as Embassies, Immigration, Consulates, Police departments, Border control officials, etc.).
In UAE, it is rather a common practice here that the employer holds the passport of their employees in their custody. It is very common for employer in the UAE to keep their employees’ passport despite of knowing it is illegal!
The company or the employer keeping the passports of their employees is illegal as per UAE Law. Employers don’t have any legal right to keep the employees passport or any other personal belonging.
When can an employee hand over the passport to the employer?
Visa Formalities: Employees can only handover the passport to the employer to proceed with visa formalities (such as stamping of residence visa and cancellation). Once the visa formalities are done, the employer is supposed to return the passport to the employee and employee should keep it in safe custody and present it to the concerned authorities upon request and employer does not have the right to retain the passport for any reason.
An employee can ask the employer to return his or her passport. If the employer forcefully keeps the passport, then an employee can approach the police station, respective consulate/embassy or MOL. However, in very specific cases, such as position of trust, those handling cash, employer may keep the employees passport but can’t forbid them from travelling outside the country.
If an employee chooses to handover the passport to her/his employer for safekeeping then it is not illegal. But an employee is to check with his/her embassy or consulate to confirm that whether it is permitted to do that or not.
Most of the employees are not aware of their rights!
Understand that your passport is the property of your respective Government. Whoever is holding the passport of any resident in the country without a court order does that in violation of the UAE Law.
So beware of your rights!