Wife in Dubai hopes to meet ailing husband after 9 years through visa amnesty
The government has announced a general amnesty for violators of the UAE's residency law.
Filipina expat Esther, 58, is holding a photo of her husband, who she hasn't seen in person for nine years. Her husband, who will be turning 73 on July 25, has been bedridden after suffering a stroke in October last year. Esther arrived in Dubai in 2009 and could not return to her home in the Philippines in fear of having to settle her huge overstaying fine, which she incurred since 2013.
The only way that Esther can check on her husband's condition is through Facebook chat, facilitated by her 20-year-old granddaughter in the Philippines.
"My granddaughter sends me photos and regular updates but I fear that my husband's condition is deteriorating. I want to be with him in his twilight years. I want to hug him and take care of him. I want to go home soon," Esther told Khaleej Times.
So when Esther read that the government has announced a general amnesty for violators of the UAE's residency law, she couldn't keep her joy in anticipation that she will soon be able to be with her husband.
"I will be the first in line to apply for the amnesty programme," she convincingly said.
The amnesty programme or the initiative called 'Protect Yourself via Rectifying Your Status' will begin on August 1 and will continue until October this year. According to the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (FAIC), this will give all foreigners who violated the residency regulation a three-month grace period to either leave the country voluntarily without prosecution or a chance to rectify their legal status by paying the required fees.
Esther said she was a victim of an unfortunate circumstance. Her sponsor, a GCC national, left the country back in 2013 and her visa was not cancelled.
"I did not know what to do. My sponsor ran away and I was left hanging. I couldn't get a new sponsor and since 2013, I was doing part-time jobs to support myself and to send little money back home," said Esther, who currently lives at a friend's house in Deira.
"All these years, I lived in fear that I will be caught by the authorities. I could not even go to the hospital when I was really sick. I have no medical insurance and every month I spend Dh700 for my maintenance meds," recounted Esther, adding "I'm just really thankful that there is an amnesty and I can go back to my family.
"I just hope the Philippine Consulate will be able to help me with my airfare and that erhaps a good samaritan will sponsor a wheelchair for my ailing husband - this and the amnesty programme are the best gifts that my husband can have on his 73rd birthday," Esther remarked.
Another Dubai resident, Andrea, has also been staying illegally in the country since 2016.
She was about to renew her visa two years ago but a bank filed a case against her. With not enough money to pay her credit card bills, she opted instead to get the services of a "fixer". The fixer ran away with her money and she was left with more bills to pay and an expired visa.
"But I was determined back then (in 2016) to just surrender and go back home until I met a Filipina nurse who promised that she can help me with my case. She said that she knew someone, a lawyer, who has connections that can help me clear the case," Andrea explained.
"With her insistence, I thought it was a 'short-cut' and sought for her help after paying her a big amount. I have receipt for the first payment and the second payment was only written in a paper with her signature - that's how I trusted her," she added.
Months passed by and nothing happened. Andrea looked for the lawyer and she found out that he was not connected to any law firm. "I had to accept that I was duped but my bigger problem now is that I have incurred overstaying fines aside from my huge credit card bills," Andrea said.
"I'm not sure if I will also be covered by the amnesty programme but I want to legalise my stay in the UAE. I will pay whatever penalties that will be charged against me. I just want to have a regular job and I want my normal life back," she concluded.
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