Covid-19: Dubai expats stranded in ‘restricted countries’ with expired visas ecstatic upon return

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Dubai - Residents have to renew their expired visas within a month after landing in the UAE.

by Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Tue 24 Aug 2021, 6:32 PM

Scores of Dubai residents with expired residency visas, who have been stranded in countries facing travel restrictions, are now returning to their homes in the Emirates thanks to the automatic residency visa extension programme offered by immigration authorities.

On Monday, August 23, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) - Dubai confirmed it has extended the residency visas of some expats stranded abroad due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Khaleej Times broke the news of the automatic extension facility nearly two weeks ago. Beneficiaries of the extension programme are mandatorily required to be outside the country between April 20 to November 8, and their residency file should not have been cancelled at the request of their sponsor.

“GDRFA-Dubai will extend the residency visa and the expiry date will be November 9 this year. In addition, when the stranded resident enters the country, the system will give him or her a period of 30 days from the date of entry to change his or her status and renew their visas”, said a statement from the GDRFA.

Rashid Abbas, the managing director of Arooha Travels warned residents who have recently travelled to renew their visas as soon as they land here. “Residents have to renew their expired visas within a month after landing in the UAE.”

‘Stranded expatriates return to their home in UAE’

Thanks to the facility, scores of expired visa holders and those who have stayed outside the country for over 180 days; stranded in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and Uganda; have been able to return to their homes in the UAE.

Khaleej Times spoke to several expatriates who were given the automatic extension. Natasha Cerejo, a Dubai resident for 11 years has been in India since January this year. “I went to Mumbai to work on some property-related work and follow-up on my house registration.

I’m on my husband’s visa and he joined us in March. After being stuck for four months and facing lack of pay, he travelled to Dubai via Armenia,” said Natasha.

In the meanwhile, Natasha and her son’s visa expired.

“After many attempts, we got the GRFA approval and we finally returned to Dubai a few days ago”, she said.

After being stuck for four months, Pakistani expatriate Danish Samana enjoyed his first day back to work at his office in Dubai on Tuesday. An employee at a tourism company, Samana travelled to his home to meet his newborn baby girl.

“My wife, Maria Lax has been outside the country since July 2020. Her visa lapsed in January. Since we don’t have medical insurance, we travelled to Pakistan so she could deliver our newborn baby there. My baby was born in January and I went to meet them in March,” said Samana.

In a bid to get his family back into the UAE, he has had to cross multiple hurdles, including getting his Pakistani Covid-19 vaccination certificate authorised by the Dubai Health Authority, apply for his newborn baby’s visa remotely and wait till his GDRFA approvals came through.

“To get my baby’s visa, I sent my Emirates ID via courier to a friend of mine here. I’ve also been working from home for the past three months. My company was very supportive,” Samana added. Once the family landed in Dubai, my baby was given special entry approval to enter on account of a humanitarian exemption.

“In my wife’s case, we were taken to a special section in the airport where the status was rectified by immigration authorities. There were several roadblocks, however, we overcame all challenges and are glad to be back home,” he added.

Mujeeb Akhtar, another Pakistani expatriate flew in from Peshawar on August 22 even though his visa expired on July 31.

“I went to visit my ailing mum who passed away in May. Right now, I am unemployed and job hunting,” he added.

‘People from the sub-continent want to experience Expo 2020’

While many stranded residents have benefitted from the automatic extension to their residency visas, holders of entry permits and tourist visas continue to eagerly wait for an opportunity to travel into the UAE. According to travel agents, a majority of the interested travellers from the sub-continent want to meet with their family members and would like to experience the Expo 2020.

TP Sudheesh, general manager of Deira Tours and Travels told Khaleej Times, “The increase in demand or interest in travel from those with expired visas is not remarkably high. However, e-residency visa and entry permit holders are where the maximum enquiries are coming in from”.

Sudheesh said a huge segment of potential demand is from tourists and visit visa holders.

“People realise there are a lot of new opportunities here, thanks to the Expo 2020. There are so many entertainment events, job opportunities, and the people from the sub-continent want to come here and check it out. We have people who are wishing to apply for long-term and multiple-entry visit visas for this purpose,” he explained.

"If this segment opens up, we expect demand to really go up", he added.

Dhanusha Gokulan
Dhanusha Gokulan

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