It has long been a practice of employers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well as some countries in Asia to keep their employees’ passports. This is believed to discourage them from running away, since you can’t just return to the Philippines or leave for another country if you don’t have one.
But while that is supposedly for the employer’s protection against runaway workers, this is illegal and against the rights of the employees! So, if your employer is holding your passport, you’d better ask for it back, politely of course.
If the employer refuses to hand your passport, then you can take the necessary steps to get them through the help of the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation (MOHRE, formerly known as the Ministry of Labour).
Step 1. The best course of action is to go to the nearest Tas’heel office. It is the government agency that deals with labour processes in the UAE. There are many offices across the UAE but if it is impossible for you to go to one, you can try to file your complaint online, at http://www.tasheel.ae/
Bring the necessary documents to support your claim, including a photocopy of your passport and other documents for identification.
Step 2. When filing your complaint, make sure to be direct to the point and give out exact details. Double check phone numbers before submitting the complaint.
Step 3. Pay the necessary fees. [around 30 AED]
Step 4. You will receive a confirmation message from Tas’heel. You are given 48 hours to settle the matter with your employer.
Step 5. Someone from the MOHRE will call you after 48 hours to confirm whether you still need to proceed with the complaint. If your employer still hasn’t given your passport back, proceed.
Step 6. MOHRE will schedule an appointment with you and your employer at their office to settle the matter. Make sure to arrive before the scheduled time.
Step 7. Discuss your case with MOHRE. You will get your passport back, if not on that day, then a few days after the meeting.
Step 8. If your employer still refuses to give your passport back, contact MOHRE again.
Aside from helping employees get their passports, Tas’heel also assists in various labour disputes, such as delayed salaries, withheld end-of-contract benefits, long working hours, and many others.
Know your rights. Don’t be afraid.