Dubai, UAE – Retention of employee passport by an employer is against the law in the UAE, and an individual has the right to take the legal course against it if done without the employee’s consent or without a court order.
“It was stated in a decree by the Ministry of Interior (in December 2002) that it will be considered as an illegal action to retain the passports except by governmental parties. It is a personal travel document that proves the identity of the holder, and the laws stipulate that the bearer must keep his or her passport and present it to the government authorities upon request. In case of holding of passports by anyone without a court order, there will be a suitable punishment by the law,” said Jamie Liddington, Head of Employment at law firm Hadef & Partners.
“In the event that an employer has retained an employee’s passport and refuses to return the document, a report could be made to the Ministry of Labour. It is possible to file a petition in the court for an urgent decision by a judge,” Liddington told Emirates 24/7
According to UAE Laws, Rules and Regulations
Ministry of Interior Dec. 25, 2002 Circular – “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 UAE except by the governmental parties. So please announce this to all of your parties. In case of retaining passports there will be a suitable punishment by the law of UAE.”
According to UAE Courts
“[I]t is not permitted for an employer to confiscate the passport of an employee and prevent him from his natural right to travel and move whatever the nature of the relationship that ties them together.” ~ Dubai Court of Cassation, Case # 268 (2001), October 27, 2001.
“Confiscating passports violates the right to freedom of movement and is prohibited by UAE law.” ~ Dubai Court of Cassation, Appeal No. 301-2003, February 28, 2004.
Unless the employer is processing certain formalities or legal documentation, only then they can hold your passports. It should be returned to the workers once the formalities are complete.
To all our fellow OFWs here in the UAE, as much as possible, get hold of your passports as your legal rights. We may not know the uncertainties that may arise. It is better to be ready.
Source: FreemyPassport | Emirates 24/7