UAE flights: Some travellers who took Covid vaccines abroad get ICA, GDRFA approval
Etihad Airways has also said that Indian nationals with a visa or residence permit issued by the US, UK or an EU member state can visit Abu Dhabi.
Some travellers with Covid-19 vaccination certificates from restricted countries are receiving pre-travel approvals from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) and General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) to fly to the UAE, Khaleej Times has learnt.
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Last week, leading UAE and foreign carriers confirmed residence visa holders from restricted countries, including India and Pakistan, can travel into the country as long as they have approval from the ICA and GDRFA, in addition to negative Covid-19 test results.
Since then, scores of travellers, including those from India and Pakistan, who did not receive their vaccination doses in the UAE, have also been able to fly into the Emirates upon receiving pre-travel nods.
Dubai resident Muzaffar Ahmed (name changed on request) had gone to India on his annual leave on April 2. “I was supposed to return after a month-and-a-half-long holiday. I lost three months’ pay during the time I was stuck in Lucknow.”
Ahmed took the Covishield vaccine during his time in India, due to which, he was able to return as soon as travel restrictions were lifted.
He finally returned to his home in Dubai on Tuesday, August 17. “I applied for the GDRFA approval and got it within 45 to 50 minutes. I flew into Dubai from Lucknow International Airport and I was on the first flight from the city to Dubai after the airport launched an on-site rapid PCR testing facility,” he explained.
‘PCR test valid from time of sample collection’
Ahmed reached the Lucknow airport at 11.30am, even though his Indigo Airlines flight was set to depart to Dubai only at 5pm. He offered a word of caution to passengers wishing to travel.
“A few travellers were not allowed to board the flight as their pre-travel PCR test was considered invalid. The 48-hour RT-PCR test result is calculated from the time of sample collection and not from the time of receiving the test result. In one instance, a passenger couldn’t board the flight because his test report overshot the stipulated time by three hours,” he pointed out.
Ahmed also said the entire trip was an expensive affair. “The ticket cost me Rs21,500 (approx. Dh1,035). I booked it through a travel agent. The 48-hour RT-PCR test cost me Rs 1,200 (approx Dh60) and the on-site rapid test Rs 3,500 (approx. Dh170),” he said.
Praveen Nair, a traveller from Mumbai to Dubai, said: “I got the GRDFA approval in 48 hours. After arriving in Dubai, I had to undergo a second PCR test at the airport. Authorities placed a sticker on my passport and I got my test result in 24 hours.”
Stephy Joseph, another Indian expatriate who took the Covishield jab, said: “I got the approval in 36 hours. I also spoke to the check-in counter officials and explained that mine was a humanitarian case as I’d been separated from my kids and husband since March this year.”
‘Travel processes for Abu Dhabi residents vaccinated abroad’
Travel agents have said the process for travellers arriving in Dubai is pretty straightforward.
Raheesh Babu, the group COO of Musafir.com, said: “In Dubai, passengers who have taken their vaccinations abroad have been able to return; the process is seamless. Passengers need GDRFA approval and should have their residency visas stamped on their passports. In rare cases, entry permit holders are being allowed to travel in case they fall into the humanitarian exemptions category.”
On Saturday, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee announced the process for verifying international vaccination certificates for visitors to Abu Dhabi emirate, starting August 20. However, it is not yet immediately clear if stranded Abu Dhabi residents wishing to return have been able to avail the services yet.
However, on Wednesday, Etihad Airways said that Indian nationals with a visa or residence permit issued by the US, UK or an EU member state can visit Abu Dhabi. "ICA approval is not required. Vaccination is not a condition of entry but you will need to show your testing status to enter public places,” the airline stated.
Steps for verification of international vaccination certificates
The process enables visitors to have green status on the Al Hosn app, with only those vaccinated allowed to enter some public places in the emirate from August 20.
Step 1: Before departure, visitors need to register in the Register Arrivals section of the ICA mobile application
Step 2: Complete the register arrivals form and upload an international vaccination certificate. Visitors will then receive an SMS, including a link to download Al Hosn app.
Step 3: On arrival in Abu Dhabi, visitors will receive a Unified Identification Number (UID) either at the airport or via the ICA app or website.
Step 4: Visitors will need to download and register on the Al Hosn app, using the UID and phone number used for ICA registration or when taking a PCR test in the UAE.
Step 5: Visitors will receive a one-time password (OTP) to complete the Al Hosn app registration process. Al Hosn app allows users to check status, vaccination information, test results and travel test requirements and use a live QR code.
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