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Visit visa holders in UAE scramble to update visa amid new policy over COVID-19

DUBAI: Visit visa holders in the UAE have gone on a rush to have their travel documents renewed following a government announcement, Saturday afternoon March 14, on the temporary suspension of all visas to foreigners, except those who hold diplomatic passports.

The new visa policy by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (FAIC) takes effect on Tuesday, March 17.

In a statement, FAIC said the new policy is in line with the declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the coronavirus has become a pandemic.

“The move comes as part of the precautionary measures taken by the UAE in response to the World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, a development which reflects the high risks now associated with travel under the current circumstances,” FAIC said.

The decision does not apply to those who already have their visas issued prior to the aforementioned date, said an advisory by the Emirates News Agency (ENA).

Visa runners being transported to their Muscat-bound plane at the Dubai International Airport. (Contributed photo)

This has apparently prompted visit visa holders, including those whose visas were yet to expire for at least a few weeks prior to the March 17 deadline, to take the next airport-to-airport flight so they could exit and have fresh three-month visit visas.

There is also the pricey “no-exit” option where the applicant need not leave the country, and which is fast becoming a preference as time runs out and flights become scarce. This, in light of Oman’s recent move to close its borders to UAE visa runners.

Also affected are those whose visas were set to be cancelled following termination of employment.

The new visa policy has caused travel agencies to be inundated with inquiries and visa runners.

Contributed photo.

“Nagkakagulo kami sa dami ng apektado. Yung iba kulang ang pera,” said Sid Rivera, marketing manager of Al Qadi Tourism. “Kagabi, we were open till past midnight. Kaninang umaga, we were open by 7am,” he added.

The same goes through with most other travel agencies processing visas.

“Dagsa ang mga tao. Ang daming nag-i-inquire. Ayaw din naman kasi nilang ma-stranded at mag-overstay,” said Malou Prado, MPQ Tourism CEO. “Hindi clear kasi kung hanggang kailan yung temporary measure.”

According to FAIC, the additional precautionary measure will be valid until a mechanism for medical examination has been established in the countries of departure as part of other global measures taken for the common good of all nations of the world to curb the proliferation of the novel virus.

“The FAIC affirms that the decision stems from the UAE’s deep sense of responsibility and diligent efforts in collaboration with other countries of the world to fight the coronavirus pandemic and survive this ongoing crisis,” the agency said.

Jobseekers, including Filipinos, use visit visas to enter the UAE in the hope of landing employment. Some have been successful following months of job hunting and visit visa renewals.

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