Having someone to do your home chores for very little money might be part of the expat dream for some, but there are potential pitfalls to be aware of
Time Out Dubai staff
Domestic help is the most sought-after form of labour in the UAE and should be the most cost effective on your list of expenses. Most maids originate from India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, or Indonesia. You can find someone to cook, clean and watch the children starting from Dhs700 to Dhs1,200 a month for a live-in, or Dhs500 to Dhs1,000 otherwise. If these rates seem too cheap then you are every bit entitled to go against the ‘peanuts for slave labour’ path and fork over more cash.
However you should be aware that hiring a domestic helper on a casual basis could land you in serious hot water. As per the law issued by the Ministry of Labour in the United Arab Emirates, you can be fined Dhs50,000 for employing a worker that is not sponsored by you, or is on a visit visa, or workers who are paid on a cash-in-hand basis. The person that you employed will be fined Dhs100,000 and face the possibility of imprisonment. That’s how seriously the matter is taken.
Laws and red tape
For a live-in maid, it’s imperative that, regardless of whether you found them through an agency or a newspaper ad, you need to sponsor their domestic worker visa (employment visa in other words). It should be displayed in their passport whenever they are entering or exiting the country. You will have to apply for the visa from the Dubai Naturalisation & Residency Department (04 313 9999). There’s a fee of Dhs5,000 a year to the immigration office; and you’ll need to prove that your monthly income, after the cost of accommodation, is not less than Dhs6,500. There will be a service charge of between Dhs3,500 and Dhs5,300 if you are selecting a maid through an agency, along with the cost of the air ticket. You will need a residence form filled in Arabic, except for your name which must be in English and Arabic, a letter of no objection from your sponsor, four passport photos, a copy of your passport and your maid’s passport. You will also need to apply for a labour card for your maid and a medical certificate, which includes health insurance and medical treatments. This costs around Dhs600.
What else do I need to provide?
It is necessary to send your maid home every two years and provide the cost of the flight and incidental expenses, including food. Also note that, according to a rule made four years ago, a maid from your own country of origin will not be provided. This system is in place to ensure there are no discrepancies caused by bringing in individuals on sponsored visas; for example, sponsoring a relative who wishes to work in the UAE illegally.
What to be careful of
If it doesn’t work out between you and your maid and you have to let them go before their contractual agreement ends, then a ban is imposed that prevents them from working in the UAE for six months. They will then have to re-enter the country on a new visa. This applies even if they have a no objection letter from their employer. Nationals and expats caught borrowing or lending their domestic help should keep in mind that not only will they be fined, but the help will be fined twice as much and face a possible jail term. Take into consideration who else your actions might affect. The housemaid who has left everything behind and helped make things better for you at home will be deported and not allowed to re-enter the country for a year.
Check the credentials of maid services advertised online before you jump in and start to celebrate at their rates. Employing a maid through a reputable company on a part-time basis means you won’t have to fall foul of any new government laws that you aren’t aware of. Prices range from Dhs20 to Dhs70 per hour. All maid services are required to renew their trade licences every year and maids are placed on their company’s visa. Reputable outfits include: Home Help (04 355 5100). Ready Maids (04 294 8345; www.alkhadam.com).
You might find a maid at a lower rate but suppose they aren’t what you expected? They might not be as careful as you need them to be around the house. For example, they might cut corners in getting the work done faster and so it won’t be ‘up to scratch’. The choice is yours.