UAE travel agencies and tour operators are now filing absconding cases against tourists who overstay their visit visas, Khaleej Times has learnt. Some agents say overstayers could be 'blacklisted' and banned from entering the UAE or any GCC country if they do not exit 'more than five days' after their visas' expiry.
One circular from a travel agency that is being shared online reads: “Attention to all tourist visa holders! With immediate effect, overstay of even one day will be absconded without any notice...Extend your visa or exit the country.”
Another one states: “Final reminder for visitors staying with expired visas: The absconding ban has been started and whoever is overstaying more than 5 days will be blacklisted and will not be allowed to enter the UAE or any GCC country. Make necessary arrangements and leave the country before it's [too] late."
However, these circulars are from travel agencies and not the immigration authorities.
Explaining why absconding cases are being filed, Libin Varghese, operational director of Rooh Tourism, said: “Any visitor travelling to the UAE on a visit visa of 30 days or 60 days is under our sponsorship. We get into trouble and incur losses if the visitor overstays his visa term. We are reporting absconding for our safety."
“The fine for overstay is applied on us if a visitor overstays, and we retrieve the fine amount from the visitor,” he added.
The penalties are not the only problem the agencies are facing in case tourists overstay. Their visa application portals can also be blocked, they told Khaleej Times.
“Earlier, the overstay fines were less than the present charges. A person overstaying should also get an outpass to exit the country along with the fines, which become a huge burden on us, and we have given the option to charge them with absconding,” added Varghese.
Travel agents also said their portal would not accept applications for new visas if a visitor they sponsored overstays in the UAE.
Once the visitor is charged with absconding, he or she would need to clarify the case with the agent the issued his visa or the sponsor. Then, fines must be paid so the case could be withdrawn.
Experts in the travel industry said the minimum absconding penalty that must be paid is Dh2,000, and this increases every day.
Absconding is a criminal offence and those charged could be arrested by the police, travel agents said. A visitor who couldn't ascertain his or her visa status would be stopped at the airport and deportation would follow, they added.
“Many visitors are unaware of their visa validity status and overstay a few days. They learn about the absconding status only when they reach the airport. That may also be subjected to deportation,” said Robin Pathrose, sales manager at Kingsland Travels.
“We request every visitor to constantly be in touch with their sponsor to avoid the trouble,” he added.
Filing charges against overstayers could help travel agents curb violations. “We being the sponsor have to take care of their return. Many visitors do not take our calls and come with the intention to stay in the UAE without a visa,” said Parthose.
Some agencies conduct background checks on their customers before processing their visit visas.
"We understand that a few of them do not plan to return soon, which puts us under the radar and can be a problem for our business. So we do a thorough background check of the applicant before accepting his visa request," said Taha Siddique, owner of Galaxy Travel
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