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UAE flights: Stranded expats jubilant as inbound travel rules eased

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on August 3, 2021
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Residence visa holders from 6 nations await final SOP, flight ticket schedules.

The long, frustrating wait is finally over for stranded expatriates desperate to return to their jobs, families and lives in the UAE

There was a collective gasp of relief all around, as the UAE announced that starting August 5, restrictions on inbound travellers from six countries would ease.

The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) said on Tuesday that fully-vaccinated residence visa holders from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Nigeria and Uganda can return to the UAE.

According to state media agency Wam, residents must have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine in the UAE and 14 days should have passed since the second dose. Certain categories of unvaccinated residents, including healthcare workers, education professionals and students have also been granted permission to return as long as they receive Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) approvals, Wam added.

The news has brought widespread joy and relief to thousands of expatriates who have been stranded in these countries — some since the beginning of the year and some since the mid of this year.

While official delegations, diplomats, Expo 2020 workers, golden and silver residency visa holders have had special permissions to travel to the UAE for months now, many others were desperately awaiting return to the UAE.

Expats await travel protocols

Now that the green signal has been given, expatriates are awaiting details of the travel protocols and requirements from the airline sources to book their flight tickets.

Travel agents told Khaleej Times that UAE authorities have put in place a stringent vetting process at the ICA approval-seeking stage. The ICA approval website, is asking passengers to upload passport details, vaccine information, and PCR test results prior to their departure.

Mirza Aziz, a UAE resident stranded in Karachi told Khaleej Times: “I’m an Abu Dhabi-visa holder and I’ve been facing trouble in getting ICA approvals for several months now.” He said, “My status on the ICA website has always shown ‘red’, due to which I have refrained from booking air tickets as well.”

Lijin Cherian, who has been in India since March this year, said, “I travelled home on an emergency. My sister and parents were ill and I took time off work to take care of them. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be stuck for so long.”

Cherian, an aviation professional said, “I don’t have work-from-home facility. My company has been very patient with me, but I’ve suffered pay-cuts and I haven’t seen my family in months. I can’t wait to return ‘home’. I’ve booked tickets for August 10.”

Sudheesh TP general manager of Deira Travel and Tourist Agency, said, “There is a huge volume of demand from interested travellers. At this point, our stakeholders (airlines) are awaiting official word from the civil aviation authorities. As expected, the flight tickets are a bit expensive at the moment – over Dh2,000 for a one-way ticket. However, the demand and prices should stabilise in a day or two. Once the supply increases, the prices will stabilise.”

Lakshman Geir, a Nepalese expatriate, said, “I have been stranded in Nepal for over four months now. I came here on an emergency land-related case. I am so happy about this news. I got both doses of my vaccine in early March, so, I qualify to travel. I can’t wait to see my wife and kids.”

Indian missions thank UAE authorities

The Indian Embassy in the UAE, responding to the development, said on Twitter: “Welcome news from NCEMA UAE. Indian residents, fully-vaccinated in the UAE can start returning from August 5, subject to the conditions laid down by the UAE Government.”

The Consulate General of India in Dubai also said, “Good News for Indian nationals who hold UAE resident visa! We are thankful to the UAE authorities for easing the travel restrictions.”

dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

author

Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.





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