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In this series on licensing in the United Arab Emirates we will discuss how to obtain medical licensing with the different healthcare authorities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and in the rest of the UAE. This first article will be dedicated to how to obtain a medical license with the Dubai Health Authority.
First of all it is important to know that the United Arab Emirates are different from many other countries because there isn’t a single healthcare licensing authority for physicians. Here’s how the country’s licensing is divided:
The DHA (Dubai Health Authority) has authority over licensing in the mainland in the Emirate of Dubai. That’s basically all of Dubai’s territory except the Dubai Healthcare City free zone. The Dubai Health Authority is a health regulator and a provider, since it also owns and operates the four government hospitals of Dubai. To work as a healthcare professional in Dubai mainland you need a DHA license.
The Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) free zone is a vast area of land in the heart of Dubai which was established in 2002 and designated to become a hub for healthcare, medical education and wellness. As a free zone it enjoys a special regulation concerning ownership (company formation and full ownership by foreign persons or institutions is allowed without requiring an Emirati sponsor) , licensing and quality control. The DHCC’s regulatory branch DHCR issues licenses to professionals and hospitals which are only valid to practice within the DHCC’s territory.
The Northern Emirates (all Emirates of the UAE except Dubai and Abu Dhabi) are under the regulatory authority of the Ministry of Health , which has several clinical facilities throughout their territory. Neither the Dubai health Authority license, nor the Dubai Healthcare City License are valid in areas under the regulatory authority of the Ministry of Health.
Finally, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has it’s own healthcare licensing and regulatory authority Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) which has authority over the territory of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which you need to practice there.
These four authorities have unified the Professional Qualification Requirements (PQR) for physicians, but despite several attempts by the Authorities to enable automatic conversion between the different licenses hurdles still remain, and a physician licensed to practice under one authority will still have to apply all over to a different authority to practice in a different location.
DHA Medical Licensing
Despite being licensed in the DHA or holding a DHA approval letter is not a mandatory pre-requirement to find a job in Dubai, most healthcare facilities will in preference only hire professionals holding these documents rather than making an offer to an unapproved physician. This is why being familiar with the licensing process and initiating licensing before looking for a job is so important.
The DHA issues license to doctors as per the following titles:
The DHA licensing is a stepwise process which is entirely managed online. A diagram of the different steps can be found here.
To start, the doctor who intends to apply has to register as a new user here.
From the time of the initial application the process can in theory be completed within 2 months, but in reality it can take up to one full year, and most successful applicants obtain a DHA license in 4-6 months from the time of first application.The overall cost to get a DHA license is approximately AED 5000 (about $1400) if you take care of every step by yourself, however for a small service fee GulfSpecialists can help you obtain your license faster and more effectively, read how on our LICENSING page.
The DHA has published a detailed document of all DHA licensing processes which can be found here.
The first step is called “Initial Application”. After registering as a new user and initiating the “New License” process you will have to fill out all the online forms with your personal and professional information and upload all the required documents, listed below:
All of your education certificates with transcript of records. Education Certificates may include any of the followings: Diploma, Bachelor’s, Post Graduates Degree, etc.
Recent professioanl and employment experience based on DHA PQR.
Log Book for the last 2 years (for surgical specialties only). And it must have facility stamp and signature of Medical Director or other authorized person.
Valid License/Registration from medical licensing body of country of recent employment.
Valid Good Standing Certificate issued by tour last country's licensing authority is mandatory for Physicians
Medical fitness test (if applicant age is 65 and above), and the test should be conducted only by medical fitness center-DHA
Valid Passport Copy
At the end of the Intial Application process, in order for the documents to be processed you will have to make a first payment of AED 220.
After the successful submission and validation of all the documents (which usually takes 2 weeks), another process called Primary Source Verification (PSV) must take place. Primary Source Verification is the act of verifiying the applicant documents directly from the original or primary source ,by a specialized international company called "Dataflow". Verification will be for educational certificates, experience, health license and good standing certificate. This process of checking goes under the name of “Sheryan” on the website of the DHA. It has to be accessed and paid separately from here.
The cost of the PSV by dataflow is AED 1235 and the verification starts 48hrs after the payment is completed online.
While the PSV is taking place the applicant may start the next step, which is the booking of his/her verification exam. Booking the exam is done online from the same website used for the initial application. The verification exam is an oral exam performed in front of a panel of DHA doctors of the applicant's specialty aimed at verifying the applicant's competencies. It is generally said that passing the exam should not be a problem for an experienced doctor, however most people who take it describe it as challenging. At least two weeks of refreshing one's knowledge will be required, if not more dedicated preparation. It is not uncommon for doctors to fail the verification exam once or multiple times. In case the esam is failed three times the applicant must commence a new application from the beginning before being allowed to take it once again.
After booking the verification exam, it can be taken only after paying for it online AED 520, if the PSV has given a successful outcome.
Once the verification exam is passed, that's when the candidate may request a DHA license. DHA licenses are only issued to medical professionals who have a job offer from a DHA-recognised healthcare institution. In other words, one can't get the license without finding a job first. It is not uncommon for doctors to complete all the previous steps of the DHA licensing including the verification exam, and then look for a job in Dubai. That's because finding a job offer in Dubai is easier if your potential employer knows you are already elegible and have passed the DHA exam.
After passing the exam, the documents to be submitted (together with a payment of AED 3020) are these:
Offer letter from recruiting facility, and it must be issued recently (last 3 month), include the professional title, facility stamp and signature of Medical Director or authorized person.
Medical fitness test (if applicant age was 65 and above), if the attached get expired during the process
Malpractice Insurance from recruiting facility
Passport Copy if the attached one is expired
If the facility name that applicant is applying for is not shown it means that the facility need to add applicant specialty and then the license can be issued
Issuing the license after the submission of these documents takes about two woring days, after which the successful applicant will be authorised to practice in the territory of Dubai.