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Hungry for hits, vloggers confuse viewers over UAE visit visa renewal formalities

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai Filed on August 7, 2020 | Last updated on August 7, 2020 at 06.34 am
covid-19, coronavirus, UAE residence visa, visa renewal, GDRFA, Amer, vlogger, tiktok

The videos talk about free extensions and mention false details about the fees.

In a bid to get more hits and followers on their social media channels, vloggers have taken to TikTok and YouTube to spread incorrect information about the cost and procedures behind visit visa renewal services, disgruntled travel agents in the UAE have said.

Authorised travel agents have said that some vloggers are using social networking apps to advertise misleading costs as renewal fees for visit visas in Abu Dhabi and Dubai that were issued after March 1. Khaleej Times has come across several trending videos on TikTok that claimed the UAE government has further extended the visa renewal grace period to September for free, and a mix-up of rates for renewal services in the emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Afi Ahmed, director of Smart Travels, told Khaleej Times: "The rates are being advertised to benefit people inside the country who have to renew visit visas or change their residency status ahead of the August 10 deadline. It is a trending subject and people are falling for it as well."

Sudheesh TP, general manager of Deira Travel and Tourist Agency LLC, explained: "Reports regarding these matters are being carried by a lot of unreliable sources. Until now, there is no free extension like some vloggers claim. August 10 is the last date to apply for a new visa or exit the country."

'Believing vloggers can have costly consequences'

The vlogs are mostly in Indian languages, including Malayalam, Hindi, Urdu and Tamil. One user claimed on YouTube: "Those whose visas have expired after March 1 can stay on till September for free, after which they can renew their visas."

FACT: "The claim made by the YouTuber is incorrect as the ICA announced on July 18 that visa holders have the opportunity to apply for a 30-day extension on their grace period after August 10."

Furthermore, this grace period extension is only being offered to Abu Dhabi visa holders and is not applicable for Dubai visa holders. The application process to avail of this waiver remains unclear. He added: "However if people were to listen to vloggers, they will end up paying hefty fines."

Cosmo Travel CEO Jamal Abdul Nazar said: "Dubai visa holders who overstay after August 10, will be levied a fine of Dh200 starting July 11 and Dh100 for every following day of the overstay."

Cost varies from emirate to emirate

Another TikTok user claimed: "I have renewed my visit visa today. I have contacted several agencies, but the best rate I have gotten is for Dh1,750 from an agency in Sharjah."

FACT: Ahmed said: "Only Dubai's General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) has given permission to extend their visit visa status internally. Very recently, Etihad Airways had given special approval to an external agency to offer a three-month extension of visit visa for Dh1,600, which other agencies are supplying for Dh1,750."

He added: "In Dubai, the charges being levied for a three-month visa renewal is Dh1,834. The application charge is Dh1,276, and after approval, it is Dh558 for changing status. In this case, the vloggers were confusing Abu Dhabi renewal charges as applicable to all the emirates.

Sudheesh TP said: "The cost of visas are different in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The visa in Abu Dhabi is set to take a minimum of one-week after application, and if rejected, the money will not be refunded."

To avoid all the chaos and confusion, Ahmed and Sudheesh have strongly advised people to check with Amer centres, the GDRFA or the ICA, and work with registered travel agents if they would like to renew their visit visas. "Also, trust officially recognised media houses for information and go to reputed travel agencies and avoid these bucket shops. The trusted agencies might charge a premium, but you won't be cheated," said Sudheesh.

Know the reality

In its most recent update made on July 14, the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) announced that those whose visit visas had expired after March 1, are being given one-month to leave the country or change their visa status to avoid fines.

The one-month window started on July 12. The advisory follows the recent Cabinet decision that cancelled all previously issued resolutions related to the residency of expatriates and validity of visas, entry permits and ID cards. The automatic extension of expired visas and IDs until December this year was withdrawn.

Furthermore, the government has launched a waiver on overstay fines for those whose visas expired before March 1. These people can approach their respective embassies and consulates to avail of the service.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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