Is it Okay for My Employer to Keep My Passport?
Understanding the reasons why employers want to keep the passport of their employees and why employees should be aware of their rights of keeping their passports.
A common situation when working abroad is that employers keep the passport of their employees for safekeeping. Here we try to enlighten you about your right as an employee for you to take a stand and not be swayed to handing over your passport to your boss/company because ‘everybody else is doing it’ or because ‘that is the process’.
Also Read: Types of Ban in the UAE
Time and again we receive questions and complaints from other residents that their employers have gotten their passports for safekeeping. Let’s try to break it down for you.
The passport is a form of a document that expats and workers abroad use when they are in a foreign country. No matter what country you are in, it will be easy for an international government to verify you as a legal citizen of your country as long as your passport is in your possession at all times.
Employers Keeping the Passport of their Employees Should be a Mutual Decision
In a general sense, employers try to keep the passport to have some form of guarantee that the employee will not leave the UAE. After getting a residence visa for you, remember that the employer is your sponsor and that they are responsible for whatever happens to you in the country. If you leave the country or if there are any issues with your stay, they will be the one facing the government. There are some cases wherein employees “leave” the country without warning, sometimes being involved in theft cases or other possible cases.
Why does my employer want me to hand over my passport?
There are a lot of cases abroad wherein employers demand that an employee surrenders his/her passport for safekeeping purposes or to ensure that the person working for them is a trustworthy one. Usually, employers really mean it. But sometimes, they use it as an excuse to prevent their workers from leaving without their permission.
This issue has always been one of the major concerns of many expatriates and overseas workers. But sadly, even up to this day, not all workers are able to make their stand against their employers when it comes to the safekeeping of their own passports.
Let’s get it straight to the point: Is it okay for your employer to keep your passport?
The answer is a big NO. Always remember that your passport is not only your property, but also belongs to your government. It is your responsibility; therefore, no one is allowed to take it from you. If anything happens to it, it will be your liability and not your employer’s. You will be the one to be subjected in any penalty from your government if ever.
On the other hand, it is considered acceptable if you will willingly leave your passport in a company locker or any other place designated by your employer for you to put your things in. As long as you can still get it back easily.
But what if my employer insists that he/she should keep it for me?
In case your employer forces you to surrender your passport, you can refuse and remind them that if they insist, you will have to resort to seeking legal action about it from your embassy. You will not need to worry anymore because most countries have created a law about the employers keeping their employees’ passports illegally to preserve and protect the rights of every overseas worker.
I am thinking of letting my employer keep my passport. Is there any way to get it back easily just in case?
If you are confident that your employer will not refuse to give it back to you once you ask, you can ask him/her to sign in a legal document with you. The said document should indicate that you have voluntarily handed over your passport for formalities. Moreover, it should state that you are under the responsibility of your employer and that your passport will be returned to you at the end of your contract or at the day you both have agreed on.
Instead of letting my employer keep my passport, how can I assure him/her that I will not leave until my contract ends?
You always can use referrals from your past employers by asking them to tell your present employer their experiences when you rendered your service to them. If in case it is your first job, you can show your perseverance and good performance while working to convince them that you are indeed trustworthy and reliable.
Sample Scenario to Justify Why you are Responsible of Your Passport
Let’s give you a scenario. Suppose your employer loses your passport, for whatever reason, who will apply for it in our embassy, us or our employer? If it’s not obvious, the answer is us. We have to go to our respective embassies and then apply for a replacement of passport.
Even when we tried contacting UAE Labour for this inquiry, they would mention that it is a decision of both parties. Should you surrender your passport, please remember that it should be a “mutual consent” and both parties agree of this set-up.
At the end of the day, communication is always the key. To avoid such situations, you should explain your side and try present yourself in the best way that you could. Also, always give your best when you are at work.
Note: Let the information above serve as a tip and reminder only. Should you have any legal questions or concerns, please seek advice from professionals to help you with your situation. DubaiNRI will not be held liable and should not be used as a basis. For more questions, it’s best to contact the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation for assistance.