Destination Gulf: How to get a visa
To work you will need a visa, which is usually organised by a sponsoring employer
Tourist visas (often given to Irish passport holders on arrival at your destination) can be obtained for up to 30 days (renewable up to 60 days in the UAE), which will allow you to travel there and find a job before making a move.
Broadly speaking, to work in the Gulf States you will need a visa – and to get a visa you will need a job.
“A worker has to be sponsored for a visa rather than applying themselves,” says Richard Walsh, science and engineering manager with Sigmar Recruitment, noting that while the waiting time for visas can vary among the Gulf countries, it normally takes about a month.
“There are quite a few documents required such as educational qualifications but in general employers will provide helpful advice about this as it is in their interests that there are no unnecessary delays to the process,” he says.
Geraldine McTigue, associate director with CCM Recruitment, says the process has got a lot more complicated in the last couple of years and has become more “drawn out”.
Tourist visas, which are often given to Irish passport holders on arrival in the Gulf, can be obtained for up to 30 days (renewable up to 60 days in the UAE), which will allow you to travel there and find a job before making a move.
The requirements and application process for work permits vary depending on the country, but generally, foreign workers must be sponsored by an employer, who usually assumes responsibility for completing the paperwork.
Travel within the Gulf States may soon become easier, with the planned introduction of a Schengen-style visa. Originally planned for mid-2014, this visa has yet to emerge, but if it does, it will allow Gulf-based expats to move easily across the borders of the six-member bloc.
Contact information for Gulf State embassies in Dublin, with more information about visa requirements, can be found by clicking on the following links (though note the websites are not official - please contact the embassy directly for the most accurate and up to date information):
United Arab Emirates: uae-embassy.ae/embassies/ie
Saudi Arabia: embassydublin.com/saudi
Gaining permanent residency in the rich Gulf States has its benefits. In the UAE, for example, holding a UAE passport gives you access to free education, cheaper utilities, and heavily subsidised property purchase schemes.
Also, given that you may have to leave the country within 30 days should you lose your job, it offers protection against this, and also means you can spend your retirement in a country where you might have spent much of your working life.
However, it is difficult (in Saudi Arabia you have to meet certain qualifications such as fluent Arabic), if not impossible, for an expat to become a permanent resident across the Gulf States at present. While it’s an issue of constant debate, it is not yet clear whether the situation will ever change, as Gulf States continue to spread their riches among their citizens, rather than embracing expats.
Jacqueline Platt, who moved to Abu Dhabi from Co Down more than 16 years ago, now calls Abu Dhabi “home”, but notes she knows of only three families from Ireland who have put down permanent roots there.
After more than 10 years spent in Oman, Andrea Linehan says,“It is absolutely a place that you can stay for a long time.”
“Many expats of all nationalities have made it their ‘forever’ home including a strong cohort of Irish,” she says. But staying forever was not for her.
“Working with a semi-state organisation meant career progression is limited for expats due to the job nationalisation policy,” she says. The standard of education can’t compete with Ireland and she wanted to do a full-time MBA. Wanting to be close to family was another reason she decided to move back to Ireland.
Additional reporting by Gráinne Loughran