I’ve been finding South African engineers construction jobs in the UAE for many years and part of the service is to assist them with their work visa applications. The first part of the visa application process is completed in South Africa by the candidate (the individual going over to work) and the second part is done by the employer in the UAE. The steps below cover the South African leg.
(Note that the UAE has a formidable bureaucratic machine that constantly tweeks the work visa application process so please always check with the local UAE consulate before starting your application).
WHY DO YOU NEED TO PROVIDE DOCUMENTS?
Most supervisory and managerial positions in the UAE require a minimum level of educational qualification and a core component of the work visa application is to make sure that this qualification is legitimate. While I’m on this point, before applying for a position in the UAE you should make sure that you have the minimum educational requirements for the position. Unlike in South Africa where an educational qualification is often “desirable”, in the UAE you will NOT get a work visa if you lack the required educational qualification for a specific job.
THE ROLE OF THE NOTARY
In the past the candidates were required to submit original certification (university degrees, marriage certificates). I never experienced any document getting lost but nonetheless it is very stressful to lose control of a document that you can never replace. To overcome this the UAE government recently started accepting notarised copies of originals.
A Notary Public is someone who is empowered to certify the authenticity and legality of a legal document. Whereas most local South African processes only require a Commissioner of Oaths to authenticate a document, foreign countries require notarization through a Notary Attorney. You will find these in most legal firms within South Africa. Note that the UAE Consulate will not accept a copy that is certified at a police station.
Helpful tip: there are a number of Notary Attorneys (legal firms) in Pretoria that will both notarize your documents AND complete the rest of the process for you, i.e. a one-stop service. When you make contact with a notary attorney ask them if they provide this service. Google “notary attorney Pretoria”.
Without unfairly promoting one notary over another, we have found that Louwrens Koen Attorneys are very experienced in this process and charge reasonable rates. The contact person there is Hannelie : 084 316 3765.
The UAE Consulate will want to see either your original or notarized copies of:
- your highest educational certificate relevant to the position you will be taking up (e.g. if you have a BSc Civil Engineering plus a Masters in Psychology you should present the former if you are going for an engineering post and the latter if you are going for a social services post)
- your marriage certificate if you are married
Besides physically seeing these certificates, the consulate also has to know that they are legitimate (i.e. that they match certain international standards and are not fake). The following process covers this.
In addition you should take your South African ID or passport to verify who you are to the notary and the various South African Government departments.
PROCESS FOR ATTESTING AN EDUCATIONAL CERTIFICATE
- Take your original documents, with copies plus your ID to the notary. The notary will compare the copies with the originals and if satisfied will emboss the copy with a pressure seal. The notary will also provide a cover letter giving his or her registration and practice number plus a list of all the documents that the notary has verified.
- You must then take the notary’s cover letter plus the notarized copies (which are now true copies of the originals) to the respective South African High Court where the Notary Attorney is registered (i.e. a Cape Town notary is unlikely to be registered with the Pretoria High Court). The High Court will provide a cover letter on their letterhead stating that the Notary Attorney is legitimate and in good standing with the Court.
- You then take all this to the South African Government Department of Higher Education in Pretoria who will attest and provide a covering letter stating that the educational certificate comes from a recognised tertiary educational institution (all higher education facilities need a licence to operate). They also stamp the copy of the educational certificate.
- The next step is the South African Government Department of International Relations (DIRCO) in Pretoria where you will get a letter confirming that the persons who verified your certificates are legitimate registered employees of the South African Government and have the authority to attest the certificates. DIRCO then binds all the paperwork together and seals it with a ribbon and embossed government seal. (This step is necessary because the UAE Consulate only deal with DIRCO and not the various other South African Governmental Departments).
- The last step is to take this pack to the UAE Consulate in Pretoria who receive it and they take a few hours to process it in their back office. When you return you will receive the pack you handed in with an UAE stamp on the back which indicates that your document(s), with the assistance of the South African Government, have been attested.
- This pack is then couriered to your new employer in the UAE who will use it to start the work visa application process on their side. If the company already has a pre-approved visa allocation for that position, the work visa normally takes about 2 weeks to be processed. If the company still has to apply for a visa allocation, the process will take a minimum of 4-6 weeks (if at all – visas are allocated at the convenience of the UAE Government).
- Certain things such as extended Islamic religious holidays can slow down the process.
ADDITIONAL STEPS FOR ATTESTING A MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE
- The marriage certificate must also get notarized as per the above process.
- The marriage certificate must go to the South African Government Department of Home Affairs to be verified before going to the High Court.
- The current rate to notarize documents is R500 although this is not regulated so you should check beforehand.
- The UAE consulate charge R750 per document attested (i.e. one certificate with 3 to 4 covering pages is R750 – they do not charge for the covering pages).
- South African Government Departments do not charge to verify or attest documents.
Caution: I have come across third party agents who charge thousands of Rands for the same one-stop service as a notary lawyer. Be aware.
- The UAE Consulate is open from 9am to 12 noon
- South African Government Departments are open from 7.30am to 4.15pm
- The processing needs to be done in Pretoria (not Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban). It can be done in one day if you plan your steps properly but if you are coming in from another town you may want to allocate 2 days just in case.
- The process is very efficient – the South African Government Departments have dediccated desks for attestation and verification and are extremely helpful and polite.
- You can find the locations of all the stops using Google Maps (Dept Higher Ed, Dept Int Relations, UAE Embassy)
UAE CONSULATE ADDRESS
992 Arcadia Street
Tel: 012 342 7736
Hours 9am to 2pm, Monday to Thursday, 9am to 12 noon on Friday.
CORRECTIONS AND ADDITIONS
This is provided as a working tool. If you spot any errors please inform me.
If you provide a suitable Notary service that fits in with the above please let me know so I can add your details.