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Filipino visa runners in quandary over Oman border closure due to COVID-19

DUBAI: Visa runners in the UAE now have to spend a few hundred dirhams more to have their documents renewed or face possible deportation should they stay illegally. This, following the temporary closure of the Oman border over COVID-19 concerns.

Road ro Musandam

Noting the situation and what this could possibly lead to, Consul General Marford Angeles of the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE’s capital city, urged Filipinos staying in the country on expiring visit visas to follow the law no matter what or suffer the consequences.

He said the embassy and the consulate “are always ready to help those needing assistance.”

Consul General Marford Angeles

“We all have to follow the immigration regulations of the host country. That means one cannot overstay. Otherwise, there are fines and legal consequences.

“The embassy is always ready to help those needing assistance. The Embassy welcomes requests for assistance and we will do our best to provide help,” Angeles said.

“Our kababayans are advised to always be aware of ongoing developments.”

What is a visa run?

Visit visa holders need to exit the UAE to have their visas renewed or changed to employment status. The most convenient places for a visa run have been Sohar and Buraimi in neighboring Oman.

Land routes to these cities go through the border in Musandam, Oman and Hatta in UAE, which have been temporarily closed since last week until further notice.

Remaining option is to go “airport to airport” where the visa runner flies to Muscat, the capital of Oman, stays in the plane and fly back to Dubai where the new visa can be sent online via Whatsapp and shown to Immigration, Malou Prado, CEO of MPQ Tourism said.

Industry rate for an airport to airport visa run costs approximately Dh1450; whereas taking the land route costs Dh1,100, according to travel agencies.

Prado, who has been in the travel business for the past 10 years, said some 50 Filipino visa runners leave the UAE for Sohar or Buraimi every day.

She said they received a message last Wednesday, March 4 from their tour operator in Oman, who facilitates issuance of Oman visas, saying border to border (land route) visa change has been suspended.

“We regret to announce that the border to border visa change is temporarily closed. Kindly advised all passengers scheduled on this date that there is no trip and they can reschedule or transfer for airport to airport to avoid overstay.

“As of now, there is still no confirmation when this will resume, so please advise all passengers accordingly,” read the tour operator’s message shared by Prado to Rappler.

Ordered back

Sid Rivera, marketing manager at Al Qadi Tourism, another travel agency, told Rappler they had a batch of five visa runners who have been ordered to return to UAE upon arrival at the Oman border post in Musandam.

He said the group was part of 13 busloads of visa runners.

“Pagdating nila sa border sa Musandam, may mga police sa Immigration post. Hindi na sila pinapasok ng Musandam at sinabihan na bumalik na lang,” Rivera said.

Rivera said travel agencies are now offering airport-to-airport, even a “no exit” visa change albeit more pricey, urging visa runners to act fast as the situation is very fluid.

“Hindi natin masabi kasi baka pati flights ma-apektuhan,” he said.

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