Annual Vacation for Maids in Dubai 41 comments

I can’t believe it’s already been a year since we hired Ms. M, our amazing Filipina housemaid. She has been wonderful for our family and we really appreciate her. It’s only been 1 week since she left for her 1-month vacation and already the house is in shambles. (Oh god, I hope she doesn’t read my blog. She may change her mind about coming back!).

Here’s what you need to know about planning an annual vacation for maids (or at least what our experience was like). Let me warn you, there are a lot of abbreviations in this post. I hope it’s not confusing to you, because it definitely took me a while to understand it.


As the sponsor of a maid, expats are obligated to cover the cost of the annual flight home to her home country (if she chooses to take a vacation). If your maid is from the Philippines she likely has to take both an international flight from Dubai to the Philippines AND a domestic flight from Manila to her home town airport.

International Flights

There are about a dozen different airlines that fly from Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Sharjah to Manila, but most include layovers in Bangkok, Doha, Hong Kong or Singapore.

There are also a few direct flights:

Most people choose to send their maids home on the cheapest flight (which usually means a long trip with connecting flights). I don’t blame them with the cost of flights these days. But if you plan it right, you might get lucky like we did. We not only got Ms. M on the cheapest flight, but it was also direct on Emirates!

Ms. M was ecstatic to hear she didn’t have to layover in Hong Kong, which she said was very intimidating because it’s a huge airport.

[Edit: When Ms. M came back she told me she had been upgraded to business class on the flight to Manila! She said she was so surprised and excited to have that luxurious experience. How lucky is that!]

Domestic Flights

If your maid comes from one of the outer islands of the Philippines, like Ms. M, then she’ll also travel on a domestic flight from Manila to another regional airport. I don’t know if technically sponsors are required to pay for this portion of the flight. To be honest, I think our responsibilities end at getting her to Manila and I’m sure many expats would agree. (But I would love to hear your opinion — leave me a comment below!)

However we felt more comfortable paying for the regional flight from Manila to Bacolod. She ended up taking Cebu Pacific. The price of the ticket was almost exactly the amount we saved by sending her on Emirates instead of Cathay Pacific. So it all worked out in the end.

Ms. M happens to live in a beautiful beachfront area, but it’s very far away from the city. After she arrives in Bacolod, she has to travel by bus for 8-10 hours to her house. What an exhausting trip!


In Dubai, expats that sponsor a maid have to sign a standard contract that outlines the responsibilities of both the sponsor and the maid. This includes an annual paid vacation for maids. At the end of the contract, she (the maid) can choose to either take the 1-month paid holiday OR take cash in lieu of a vacation. A lot of housemaids in Dubai choose to stay and work so they can collect the cash in lieu. Here’s how it works:


  • Maid goes back to her home country for 1 month
  • She is given 1 month salary for the time she’s gone
  • Her flights are paid for by you

Cash in lieu

  • Maid stays in Dubai and continues working for sponsor as usual
  • She is given 1 month salary as her holiday pay
  • You ALSO give her cash for what you would have paid for the flights*
  • You pay her normal monthly salary plus the holiday pay

* How much you give her for the cost of the flights really depends on you. Some people think it’s fair to either find the average cost of flights or choose a flight she would have gone on. I know some people have said they would pay according to the absolute cheapest flight possible. There is no law that covers this, so it’s based on the individual.

By the way,if you or your husband are Emirati (ie have a 2-year maid contract), then I don’t think the above applies.

Required Paperwork & Fees

There is some administrative shuffling that your maid will need to do before she goes on vacation. She can take care of it herself, you (as her sponsor) don’t need to go with her.

It’s all done at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) office in Dubai and it is very busy there. Make sure she goes early in the morning…really early. Ms. M went at 8am and there were already 20 people lined up. She got her papers immediately once she got through the queue, submited the paperwork and paid the fees.

Here’s a list of things your maid will need in order to exit the UAE and return from the Philippines:

1. Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC)

The Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issues travel exit clearance papers (aka OEC) to all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).

The OEC is the holy grail of paperwork for Filipino expats that are traveling. They must show the OEC in order to leave the Philippines without hassle and to avoid paying the travel tax and airport terminal fee (what the heck are those 2 things, does anyone know?)

The OEC is only valid for 2 months, so it’s best to apply for it closer to her travel date. If it expires while she is in the Philippines, she’ll have to apply for a new OEC while she is there. It might be a hassle (and will cost more) this way.

In order to get the OEC she’ll need to take the following documents to the POLO office:

Cost: 10 dhs

* Look closely and you’ll see this form is partially filled out. Before you print it, make sure you remove the person’s name at the top. I didn’t do this, it’s direct from the POLO office.

2. Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)

As I understand it, this is a government welfare scheme. She doesn’t necessarily need this to travel but she has to pay for it as an OFW. She needs to have OWWA paid in order to get an OEC travel paper. This is valid for 2 years. Cost: 92 dhs

3. Pag-Ibig

This is another government scheme that helps Filipinos save money to build or buy a house back home. Cost: 10 dhs

Read More

It’s always good to get information “straight from the horses mouth.” Please read more about the process for OFWs going on vacation from Filipino expats living in the UAE:

The last blog post has interesting information for OFWs that are traveling on holiday but NOT going back home to Philippines.

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41 thoughts on “Annual Vacation for Maids in Dubai

  • Jim B

    Good information. Thank you for posting this. Do you know if the process the same for maids of all nationalities? Our maid is from Indonesia and her holiday is coming up in September.

    • BusyMommyDXB

      Hi Jim. I don’t think this procedure is the sane for all maids. I rhink it’s specific to maids from the Philippines that are traveling back home for holiday.

      Probably best to check with the Indonesian Embassy or Consulate General about any procedures she needs to go through.

      Thanks for commenting on my blog.

  • Sadia's Mum

    Is it mandatory for the holiday to be taken in 1 month or is it possible to schedule so that it is 2 weeks at a time? I would prefer for our housemaid to take her holiday at the same time as we take ours. Which is twice in a year. Is this possible?

    • BusyMommyDXB

      Hi Sadia, I haven’t looked at my maid’s employment contract recently but from my memory (which isn’t the best!) it only says 1 month. It doesn’t stipulate that it must be consecutive weeks, however it’s implied since you are flying them home for their vacation.

      I have heard of the following scenarios happening:
      – You and your maid agree to splitting up the vacation time.
      – You told the maid before employing her that this would be the way vacation time would be split if she came to work for you.
      – You tell her that’s the way it’s going to be and as the employer you are in your right to approve or disapprove when she takes her holiday.

      These are all standard practices in Dubai, now whether they are legal or not…I don’t see why not. But I’m not an attorney or expert in UAE immigration law.

    • BusyMommyDXB

      Hi MG – Thanks for reading!

      The standard contract for maids is given to you by immigration (DNRD) when you apply for the visa. I don’t think there is a copy available to download anywhere.

      If there is something specific you want to know about the contract, I’d be happy to reference our contract and answer any questions you have.

    • BusyMommyDXB

      Hi Anne, thank you for the sweet comment. I sincerely hope this post helps others in planning their maid’s vacation. Maids/nannies…they all work so hard, they certainly deserve the month-long vacation!

    • BusyMommyDXB

      Hi Sharon, I’m not sure what you mean by that? If you mean do you have to tell your maid what her salary would be, then yes, you do. It is written into the employment agreement that both of you sign and give to the DNRD as part of the visa process.

      She has a right to know…there’s not a job in the world that someone signs up for and they don’t know how much they are being paid…right?

  • Ling

    Hi there,

    Quick clarification (if you have the answer). My friend’s Filipina helper had an aunt working in Malaysia and she wanted to visit them during her annual leave this time.

    As we are also going back to malaysia for holiday, my friend had asked us if her helper can tag along with us.

    Since she is not going back to Phillipine, what paperworks she need to exit Abu Dhabi? And can we, who is not her sponsor bring her along with us for 1 week to Malaysia? We know that Filipinos do not require visa to enter Malaysia.

    Thank you.

  • Gill

    Great blog in the mine field that is trying to sort out paperwork for our nanny. I was hoping you might be able to help with information on how to get the employment contract verified a the polo owwa? Our nanny came here on a visit visa and and didn’t get her exit stamp here. It looks like they are not letting her do it in the Philippines because they want her employment contract verified here. We just don’t know if we will be able to do it on her behalf.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • Mio | Third Culture Family

    Hi Gill, I’m not sure I exactly understand your situation, but I’ll try to answer you anyways. 🙂

    The employment contract is the labor contract from the UAE immigration office (DNRD). We just sent our maid back to the Philippines on vacation for the 2nd time and I used this post to remember what we needed. Everything was still the same.

    When I first hired our maid, here employment visa had expired and she was in her 30-day grace period before she needed to leave. We transferred her visa to my husband’s sponsorship and paid a fee not to have her leave the country and come back. I’m not sure if they still allow this, though it is worth asking.

    I hope this helps?

  • Dubai Holidays

    Such a detailed article covering everything. Our company hire many maids from Philippines. You have suggested some very cheap and reasonable ways to arrange there free trips. I liked your idea to deal with them with due respect.

  • Erica

    Good day..i just want to ask is it possible for me to ask vacation from my madam? Im almost 1 yr here serving them…so far everything is going fine.. u dont have day off but its ok for me.. i just want to have a vacation in my family in Philippines.. nice to hear from you soon…thanks

    • Mio | Third Culture Family

      Hi Erica,

      According to your labor contract, you are entitled to 1 month of paid vacation after completing your contract. For expat sponsors, the contract length is 1 year. I hear that for local sponsors it is 2 years (but I can’t confirm that for sure).

      The contract isn’t very specific about how the vacation is given. Which means that your employer can choose to give that to you at his/her convenience. They may choose to grant 1 month or break it up multiple vacations (for example 2 weeks during January and 2 weeks during August). Nothing is stopping you from asking them about taking your holiday. Just find a good time to approach them in a professional manner and hopefully all will work out in your favor.

      Good luck!

      • Erica

        Follow up question.. since my employer are not local the validity of my contract is only 1 yr even if i sign in 2 yrs contract?
        Second…since renewal is done annually can i approach them not to finish the remaining 1 yr in my contract..instead og going to a vacation i dont want to renew is it possible for me? Will i be ban in UAE?..


  • john


    Great information. Thanking you. I just had a question not related to this topic.
    I want to help my maid to do some small business for herself on the side in Dubai. Can she register a company under her name in Dubai if she is under my sponsorship?


    • Mio | Third Culture Family

      Hi John, I think it’s great that you would be willing to help your maid. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough knowledge about your situation. To be honest, I don’t know if her visa category is allowed to start a business regardless of whether the visa sponsor (you) gives her an NOC to do so or not.

      It’s probably best that you contact the DED or a freezone directly. I’m sure they can help you. Although I’m no attorney and this is not legal advice, I would not allow her to do any side work because as her sponsor you could be held liable. Be very careful in this regard…please speak to the DED for clarification. Good luck!

  • beaty

    hi i work as a house maid. its now 5months but i want to quite as a housemaid and look for something better in dubai. coz housemaid job is not easy for me since my health condition is not that when it comes to carrying and doing heavy jobs. n secondly my sponsor is a little bit very stingy i may say or she has no time n does not care about the health condition of her maid. i have severally told her to take me to hospital coz i have some health issues coz of the hot weather during the time i came to dubai. now i only have 5 months as a house maid but i want to quite after the eight month. my question is for how long is house maid supposed to work without stop or cancel the contract?

    • Mio | Third Culture Family

      Hi beaty, do you have a copy of your labor contract from the immigration office? I am not an immigration expert or a lawyer, so I advise you to seek someone who is before you make any final decisions.

      In a general sense, if you quit before your contract expires, your sponsor is entitled to deport you and place an immigration ban. Since this is quite severe, I suggest that you speak to your employer in a dignified and professional manner about your options. He/she may be OK with transferring your visa to another sponsor. This way you can stay in the country legally and work for another family.

      Good luck.

  • popo

    I would like to ask, I work for a Chinese couple and my UAE IDs are for 1 year if the expire I’m entitled for a vacation for how long?

    • Mio | Third Culture Family

      Your vacation is supposed to be for 1 month. However, the labor contract doesn’t exactly state that the holiday must be taken all at once. In my opinion, it can be interpreted in several ways.

      Some people believe it is up to your sponsors to decide whether it is convenient to them for you to take it all at once or if they want you to break it up into a couple of weeks at a time. If they choose to break it up, they are still only obligated to take care of 1 roundtrip/return flight.

      I hope that makes sense.

      Remember, this is for renewal only. If you don’t plan to renew the contract, then they only have to send you home and give you salary for 1 month.

      Again, I’m not an immigration expert and you should seek the advice of a professional. If you are Filipina, I think there is a free legal clinic based at St. Mary’s Church in Oud Metha. You could try going there to ask.

  • Jean

    Hi Good day
    Im just alittle bit confused with my contract and the laws here in UAE. Im working as a housemaid and i will have my 1 yr of serving the family next month… My question is WHEN I WILL HAVE MY SO CALLED ANNUAL VACATION? after finishing the contract i signed which is 2 years or can I have it this year (but i think they will not give me this yr, I just want to know my rights)… Thanks and hope you will give me some attention regarding this things..

    • Mio | Third Culture Family

      Hi Jean, do you have access to your contract (it’s a green paper that is standard through the immigration department).

      On there it will provide that information. If you are on a 2 year contract then you are likely working for an agency or a local family. I have no knowledge how that works.

      I only know that for expat families, we are obligated to provide 1 month holiday at the end of a 1 year contract.

      All the best!

      • Jean

        Hi Good day to you madam. They are expats madam and we already talked about the vacation and they will give it to me next yr I dont know why like this it stated on my contract about tha annual vacation but its ok for me since time runs fast.. I dont have access of my contract but i have a copy of agency contract which i signed in Philippines.. Thanks for giving attention madam

  • Dana


    Great detailed article… very helpful.

    Just a question, servant contracts expires in a year (for expat sponsors), do we have to renew their resident visa before they go for vacation?

    our maid will be in vacation to the Philippines around July to August, but her resident visa will expire on August 31, 2015 to be exact. will there be a problem with the immigration both here in Dubai and Philippines?

    thanks in advance!

    • Mio | Third Culture Family

      Hi, I’m so sorry for responding late. I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now, but the short answer is no you don’t need to renew it before she leaves.

      We were in this EXACT position when our maid went on holiday. She had about 10 days left on her residence visa. When I asked DNRD (immigration) how many days she needed on her visa to re-enter, and they said she only needed 1 day! 🙂

      There is a 30-day automatic grace period after her visa expires, so we had plenty of time to process her visa/medical anyways.

      Call immigration to be sure, because you know how things can change in an instant here. 🙂 800 5111

      Hope that helps!


  • Marybeth

    Hi there! I work as a private nurse. My contract will end this coming September 04. Am I entitled to receive a Gratuity or end of service benefits? Thank you and more power.


    hi and good day..i just want to ask please if what is the benefits of a private full time maid. my contract is only one year.. i ask my emplyer if i can take my annual leave holiday in philippines but she told me i havents finish my 2 years contract. and she told me also that she paid already my annual leave which is 1500 so it means that i dont have vacation leave anymore. i was so confused and i feel unhappy because as i know i have a 1 month annual leave vacation with pay.. which is correct..
    thank you so much.

  • myriam

    Good afternoon, thanks for this very useful blog, I have however one question to which I would appreciate getting some feedback.
    My nanny is taking her one month holiday in June, however she is not going to Philippines and staying in Dubai. I am paying her the price of a ticket.
    1/ She asked whether she can stay at our place during this month . Anything you heard about this before ?
    2/ She asked us to pay her as well 130 EOC fees , however she is not travelling. we believe this is not fair so we wont accept ? do you share our view.
    thanks a lot

    • Mio | ThirdCultureFamily Post author

      Regarding #1 it’s up to you to decide. We had a live out maid and we offered for her to stay in our place while we were gone on holiday. However, I wouldn’t do that again based on my experience. If she is a live in maid and I am in the country, then I it makes sense to let her stay in our house while she is on holiday. Again, this is all based on what you want to do.

      Regarding #2, no you don’t have to pay her those fees. You are obliged to pay her for the cost of the ticket (if she doesn’t go on holiday) but not the other fees associated with travelling. I paid the fees on behalf of our maid when she went on holiday, but wouldn’t have given her cash for the fees if she didn’t go.

      If you are ever concerned about what you are legally responsible to take care of, contact the DNRD directly.

  • Mymou.O

    Good afternoon, thanks for this very useful blog, I have however one question to which I would appreciate getting some feedback.
    My nanny is taking her one month holiday in June, however she is not going to Philippines and staying in Dubai. I am paying her the price of a ticket.
    She asked whether she can stay at our place during this month . Anything you heard about this before ?
    She asked us to pay her as well 130 EOC fees , however she is not travelling. we believe this is not fair so we wont accept ? do you share our view.
    thanks a lot