Everyone knows someone who knows someone who’s been arrested for breaking the law in Dubai while living here as an expat. Typically the tale is shocking – and blown out of all proportion via word of mouth. These Chinese whispers often leave people thinking laws are stricter here than elsewhere, or inconsistent. But the truth is that the laws of the UAE are there to protect you. We interviewed local police, lawyers and the municipality to find out the truth about any perceived ‘grey areas’ you may have. Not answered all your queries? Click here to view The Big employment questions Click here to view The Big rent questions Click here to view The Big drugs questions
The Big traffic questions
Bader Al Zafain at Dubai traffic police’s special division clarifies the rules of the road.
Q: Which traffic laws do western expats break the most? A: Failing to renew car registration and insurance is a common one. For example, this January we fined 2,884 people for this. If you don’t have valid car insurance or registration and you have an accident, your punishment will be decided in court. If someone is seriously injured or dies in the accident and it is your fault, you will have to pay money to their family according to the severity of the accident, as well as the injured person’s nationality and religion. Another common law that expats break is drinking and driving. If you have just one per cent of alcohol in your body, it’s a crime. You will receive 24 points and a punishment decided in court.
Q: Are people always informed in person when they’ve committed a traffic violation? A: No. Once lawmakers make a new law, they declare the law and put it in every single official newspaper for one month. After that, no one can blame the government for not knowing the law. Sometimes we send a text message to tell people they have a road fine and points, but not always. It’s best to check the website, www.dubaipolice.gov.ae, every month, even every day, to make sure you are not gathering too many points. Once you get to 24 points, you’ll have your licence revoked – the court will determine how long for. If you have less than 24 points, you can pay Dhs100 per point to remove up to eight points; you can take classes at Dubai police to remove another eight points. Just be sure to check. People may not know that they have earned 12 or even 24 points – they only realise once they change their car registration each year.
Q: Do cars have to stop for pedestrians at zebra crossings? Often they don’t! A: Drivers have to give pedestrians a chance to walk if there is a zebra crossing, even if it has no lights, or they can expect a Dhs500 fine plus six black points. If an accident occurs it’s the driver’s responsibility, because the pedestrian has the right to walk. This is a big problem in International City, because people run out [into the road] and the cars don’t stop.
Q: Do children have to wear seatbelts when travelling in a car? A: If a child is over 10 years old, they must wear a seatbelt. If they are younger than 10, they have to sit in a child’s seat. We have a slogan: ‘Click it or ticket.’ People don’t tend to know that there is a fine for allowing a child under 10 in the front seat, even if they are wearing a seatbelt. It’s just too dangerous. Also, when parents take their children to school, they must drop them right at the door or they will be fined. They shouldn’t just leave them on the street. If anything happened to the children, or they caused an accident, the parent would be blamed for it in a court of law. In the UAE, people are not responsible for their actions until they are 18.
Q: If I have a collision on the road and it is not my fault, but the other person speaks Arabic and is able to argue their case better with the policeman, what should I do? A: First, always take yourself out of the danger zone [don’t just stay where you’ve crashed]. The police will come and either give you a green slip (not guilty) or a red/pink slip (guilty). If you feel you are not guilty but you have been given a guilty paper, you have 10 days to go to the police station, where you can ask the police to recheck your case. Another officer will look at the car, along with the policeman who was at the scene of the accident. He will be asked why he came to his conclusion, then the case will be reviewed again. If the person is still not satisfied, he can go to the police station and file a case. The case will go to the prosecution department and then the special traffic accident division, where we will check the cars involved and decide once and for all whose fault it is. While this is going on, to keep things fair, all fines will be put on hold until the verdict is decided. We’ve had quite had a few cases like this, mostly from European people. Normally it turns out that it is actually their fault. They just didn’t understand why because of the language barrier.
Q: Is it illegal to have tinted windows? A: It is illegal to have windows that are more than 30 per cent tinted. People with 70 or 80 per cent tinted windows tend to argue that they can still see out of them. But that’s not the problem. We need to be able to see inside to check that you are wearing a seatbelt, that you don’t have a child in front, that you are safe. A 30 per cent tint reduces heat in the car the same amount as a 70 per cent tint.
Q: Can I drive a private car with an international licence, or am i restricted to a rental car? A: If you are on a visit visa, you can use an international licence for a private car. If you are a resident, you must replace your international licence with a UAE one as soon as possible after receiving your resident’s visa in order to drive a private car.
Q Is it illegal to change lanes without using your indicators? A Yes. There’s only about a 5cm gap between most steering wheels and indicators, so why don’t people just use them for safety’s sake? You will receive a Dhs200 fine and three black points for not indicating before turning or overtaking.
Q: Is it illegal to drive very close behind someone, flashing your headlights to encourage them to move out of the way? A: Yes. This creates a threat on the road and comes under reckless driving. It incurs a Dhs2,000 fine, as well as 12 points. It is wrong to flash your lights in an aggressive way. However, our advice is to protect yourself and your passengers first by moving out of the way. It’s better to be safe in the slower lane and to move away from those driving close behind you.
2,348 people in Dubai were caught not wearing seatbelts in January (this receives a Dhs400 fine and four points).
Almost every part of Dubai is already monitored by speed cameras – and even more are being introduced.
Texting is becoming an increasing danger on the roads, due to growing trends in wireless mobile devices and PDAs. Dhs200 is the fine for those caught using a hand-held mobile while driving.
Fines to think about
Driving below the minimum speed limit (ie below 60kph on a 100kph road) - Dhs200
Smoking inside taxis or buses - Dhs200 Taxi refusing to carry passengers - Dhs200 Writing phrases or placing phrases on car without permission - Dhs200 Exceeding passenger limit - Dhs200 Opening the left door of a taxi - Dhs100 Using the horn in a disturbing way - Dhs100
The employment team at local law firm Al Tamimi & Company clarify workers’ rights.
Q: Can your employer prevent you from working in the UAE for a year if you leave the company on bad terms? A: If a person has worked for an employer for less than a year and the employment is terminated (or the individual resigns), an automatic six-month employment ban is imposed on them by the Ministry of Labour. If the employee has worked for the employer for less than three years, a six-month employment ban is also automatically imposed. In both cases this can be avoided if the employer is willing to provide the employee with a no-objection certificate (NOC). If an employee were to resign after working for an employer for more than three years, the employer may request that a ban is imposed, but it is not automatic. A 12-month ban would only usually be imposed in extreme circumstances, for example where the employee has been dismissed for gross misconduct, and the Ministry of Labour agrees with the dismissal.
Q: Is this law the same in free zones? A: Generally, the free zones do not impose bans on employees, but may do so if requested by the employer. It all depends on the circumstances leading up to the dismissal of the employee. Any ban imposed by a free zone would ordinarily only be applicable within that free zone. The Ministry of Labour has no jurisdiction over free zones and therefore an employment ban imposed on an individual outside these zones would not generally be enforceable within them.
Q: What are the laws on maternity pay? A: Under UAE labour law, an employee is entitled to 45 days of paid maternity leave if they have worked for the company for more than a year. If they have worked for less than a year, they are still entitled to 45 days, but at half pay. All the free zones follow the provisions of the UAE labour law with the exception of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which has its own separate maternity employment law. Subject to length-of-service eligibility, employees in DIFC are entitled to three months’ maternity leave: 45 days at full pay and the next 45 days at half pay.
Q Does paternity pay exist in the UAE? A: There are no paternity leave or paternity pay provisions under UAE law. However, this does not preclude employers from providing such benefits should they wish.
Q: Can companies confiscate passports to stop people leaving the country? A: Withholding employees’ passports by employers is illegal under the laws of the UAE. However, it is still a common practice in certain industries. Only the relevant authorities in the UAE have the power to retain an individual’s passport.
Q: If a company has invested money in training an employee, can the company claim the money back when the employee leaves? A: The employer cannot seek to recover this sort of money unless a contract has been signed beforehand, stating that the employee would have to repay such amounts should they terminate their employment.
Q: Can you live in Dubai without a visa if you leave and come back once a month on a ‘visa run’? A: The UAE laws state that in order to be legally resident in the UAE, an individual must have a valid residency visa issued through a sponsor, which for employees is usually the employer (or a free zone if they are employed in a free zone), or (usually) the male parent or spouse. In practice, we are aware that people do ‘visa runs’, but obviously they do run the risk that the authorities will question this and they could face sanctions as a result.
Q: What should you do if your ex-company can’t afford to cancel your visa? A: Report the matter to the Ministry of Labour or Immigration Department immediately. It is the company’s obligation to cancel (or transfer to a new employer) an employee’s visa following the termination of employment.
Get an ID card!
It was recently announced that it is necessary to have an Emirates ID card for all vehicle and licensing procedures. By the end of 2010, the card will also be necessary for all Naturalisation and Residency Department procedures, and eventually most government and banking services. The plan is that at some point in the future the card will replace all labour cards, driving licences and even serve as an ATM card.
How do I get one?
Go to www.emiratesid.ae, fill out a form and make an appointment to visit one of the registration centres to get your photo and fingerprints taken. The card will arrive in the post within 10 days.
Omar Mohammed Abdulrahman, head of the Inspection Section of the Building Department, and Sultan Majid Lootah, assistant secretary general of the Rental Committee, answer our queries.
Q: Is it still illegal for single people to live in certain areas? A: ‘Residential’ areas, such as Jumeirah, are for families. The ‘commercial’ areas – Al Quoz and what we call the Central Business District (Deira, Garhoud and Bur Dubai) – are mainly for bachelors. The main rule is that bachelors [single people] are not allowed to live in villas unless they are designed for a varying number of families with segregation licensed by the municipality. We have been running a campaign to move single people out of villas since 2005. This includes professional Western people – they should be worried if they’re living like this. We fine them and cut off the electricity if we find out. The inspections have not stopped: they are ongoing. Omar Mohammed Abdulrahman
Q: What should I do if I move into a flat and there is terrible construction outside and suffocating fumes coming from the restaurant below? Do I have any right to a reduction in rent? A: If you move in and immediately notice such problems, you should come to the committee straight away, instead of leaving it for months or we’ll wonder why you didn’t come earlier and this will weaken your case. You should inspect the property closely before you sign any contract – don’t just look at it over the internet. Everything depends on the contract you sign. If the landlord is not fulfilling obligations agreed with you, such as providing a pool or parking, file a case with the committee and we can reach a settlement between the two of you. Normally this is either a cancellation of the contract or a reduction in rent. Sultan Majid Lootah
Q: Do you tend to err on the side of the landlord or tenant? A: We look at every case individually and factor in the human elements. For example, if we decide the tenant should be evicted, we allow them 15 days to move out. But if we see that there are young children who need to finish a school term, or perhaps a sick person, we may give them more time. We want to keep everyone happy – to create peaceful relations between tenant and landlord. SML
Q: Can more than two people share a rented room in the UAE? A: The law states that no more than two people can share a room in the UAE. This is the healthy amount. Also, make sure you do not disturb your neighbours by partying and making lots of noise. SML
While there have been (and still are) instances of unmarried couples living together in the UAE, take heed that Dubai is a Muslim country and any anti-Islamic activity that could offend public morals will not be tolerated by law. The authorities are likely to take steps against such individuals if they are caught. Click here to view The Big traffic questions Click here to view The Big employment questions Click here to view The Big rent questions
The Big drugs questions
We checked with the British Embassy to discover the essential dos and don’ts.
Q: what are the laws on which drugs you can and can’t bring into the UAE? A: Recreational drugs are strictly forbidden, even a residual amount. Consuming or carrying drugs, even if you are transiting through the airport from one country to another, can result in a four-year imprisonment sentence and deportation. Buying or selling narcotics is considered a serious crime and a life-imprisonment sentence can be given. Some medicines (accepted in the UK) containing psychotropic substances are also forbidden. Check the Drug Control Department website for clarification. If you are using prescribed drugs, it is advisable to carry a doctor’s note. If you are importing prescription drugs, you may need to seek prior agreement from the UAE authorities. Contact the Drug Control Department on 02 611 7342; email email@example.com or see www.moh.gov.ae.
The ‘E-Laws’ iPhone application.
Last month, Dubai Public Prosecution (DPP) launched an Arabic iPhone application that allows people to download the law straight to their mobile.
When will it be translated into English? ‘We are hoping it will be done by the end of the year,’ says Abdulla Sauer Al Marri, head of IT at DPP. ‘We have to work on the software for this.’
Is there a website where you can find all the UAE laws? ‘We’re hoping to get all UAE laws onto the DPP website before Gitex [in October]’, explains Al Marri.
The verdict: We tried the Arabic application and it’s accessible and comprehensive. Roll on the English version!
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Rich Lyon Oct 13, 2015 01:23 am
Baiju Giridas Dec 01, 2010 07:31 am
Keeping the educational certificates of Employees in UAE
I am working in a construction company; my employer is not willing to get back my certificates. I have not yet received my original certificates after the visa process. Is it necessary employer has hold my certificate till the end of my contract? I need it terribly for to apply for my higher studies. What are the options I have to get back my certificates?
Sheena Yu Jul 28, 2010 05:59 am
would like to ask in behalf of my friend who flying to dubai and might seek for a job, she is unmarried and pregnant, do you think there is an opportunity for her to get a job now that she is 1-2 months pregnant and unwed?
Vaithi Jun 15, 2010 11:28 am
Hi, I understand regulation in place for tinting the car windows. The question is, Is it legal to tint of a car registered under Company's name? This question arises, as one of the Garrage In Charge conveyed. Can you help me out?
jinks Jun 15, 2010 08:59 am
Hi there! I just have some queries regarding a credit card got from Dubai which was left unpaid for the reason that my female friend needs to left Dubai for she is pregnant. She doesn't have intention of running away from his debt but then she doesn't have work & no enough money to pay the said card, actually now she is a single mom after she gave birth, she's just depending on her parent's work to support his baby. She have now planning to work abroad to pay the said card as well to support her baby. Now, my question is this, can Dubai issue a travel ban that will apply to other gulf countries, is it safe for my friend to enter other middle east country to work? A helpful information will do. Thank you so much & more power.