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Stranded residents with lapsed visas delighted to return to UAE

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 11, 2021
File photo

Holders of expired residence visas were previously unable to return to some emirates, but many are now choosing to return on visit visas

Stranded residence visa holders — who stayed outside the country for more than 180 days — are delighted to finally return to their homes in the UAE.

Many expatriates have been stuck in countries that faced travel restrictions imposed by the UAE. But starting tomorrow, September 12, they are expected to return in large numbers.

As per the revised rules announced by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA), the UAE will now allow entry of all residents, who are fully vaccinated with WHO-approved vaccines, from previously restricted countries.

This includes passengers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Namibia, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, South Africa, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

Many Dubai residents who were abroad for more than six months have been able to return to the country, thanks to the visa extension programme granted by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA).

However, holders of visas issued by other Emirates in the country could not avail similar facilities.

Mohammed Shahbaz, a resident of Sharjah, has been stranded in Hyderabad for more than six months.

To make matters worse, his residence visa expired on August 28, which meant he couldn’t return under any visa extension programme.

“Dubai extended the validity of expired residence visas. However, it wasn’t the case for other emirates. I have now booked my tickets for September 15 to Sharjah,” Shahbaz said.

Faizan Bashir, a Fujairah resident and lab technician, has been stranded in Pakistan since March.

“I came here to meet my wife and new baby, who was born in February. I did not think the extension would go on for so long. I suffered massive pay cuts because the nature of my job does not allow remote work," he said.

After nearly two months without pay, Bashir said he has booked a ticket to Sharjah for September 18.

Travel agents have said the demand for inbound travel from countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is extremely high. Residents with expired visas were previously unable to return to the UAE, but they can now return on visit visas.

Raheesh Babu, group chief operating officer of Musafir.com, said: “The demand for inbound travel is very high. Furthermore, ticket prices are also high. One-way tickets from India are priced at Dh1,100 to Dh1,300. Moreover, the demand for visit visas from these countries are sky high. We are processing 1,500 to 2,000 requests per day.”

Babu also said at least 30 to 40 per cent of the travellers are from Saudi Arabia.

Rashid Abbas, managing director of Arooha Travels, said, “We are still awaiting some clarity for people whose visas have expired. A majority of these categories of travellers are opting to travel back on visit visas and issue new visas. However, that is dependent on the flexibility of the companies the individuals are employed under. Many people have lost their jobs due to this issue as well.”

But Abbas said the job market is flourishing at the moment and many visit visa holders are able to find jobs in the UAE now.

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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