Whereas in the west the word ‘sponsor’ is commonly used for individuals or businesses paying to have their names associated with an artistic or sporting event, in the Gulf it has a quite different meaning: a sponsor acts as a sort of guardian as well as guarantor and must undertake all administrative work (i.e. paperwork) on behalf of the foreigner, including applying for a work and residency visa, opening a bank account and signing a rental accommodation contract.
A sponsor can be an individual, a company or an institution. In the case of employees, your employer usually also acts as your sponsor; visitors may be sponsored by a business partner or associate or by the hotel in which they’re staying. Those aiming to do business or set up a business in Dubai should research the local business environment, establish contacts and find an individual or company with a good reputation and experience in the relevant field to act as your sponsor, who will expect remuneration for his services.
If an individual acts as a sponsor he is required to hold a residence visa in Dubai and have a minimum income of AED10,000 per month
The sponsorship system is an effective form of immigration control. As your sponsor is responsible for you and ‘takes the rap’ if you misbehave or contravene any regulations (which will also involve him in loss of ‘face’ in the community), he automatically checks that you’re reliable and trustworthy, as well as ensuring that you don’t inadvertently step out of line. For this reason, your sponsor is an important source of help and advice and a valuable ‘ally’. Foreigners who want to set up businesses in the free trade zones do not require a sponsor.