x

Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

Amnesty surge expected as deadline draws closer

Consulate staff revealed many would-be applicants are waiting until the last minute
Diplomatic staff are expecting a surge in visa amnesty applicants as the October 31 deadline approaches. Reem Mohammed/The National

Consulates across the UAE are expecting a surge in amnesty applications as the deadline for the reprieve draws closer, it has been revealed.

Diplomatic staff said many of those working in the country without valid visas were anxious to maximise their earnings before returning home.

The result has seen many residents continuing to wait until the last minute before coming forward for assistance under the programme.

But on Thursday officials warned individuals not to leave it too late before applying, and risk falling foul of the scheme altogether.

“The feedback that I keep getting from community members is that there are more people who have yet to come in,” said Mr Vipul, Indian consul general in Dubai.

“We’re expecting a surge of people in October because most workers don’t want to lose out on the dirhams they can earn in two months.”

Amnesty seekers wait for their turn at the Indian Consul General’s office in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National 

The UAE's much-publicised amnesty offers anyone who has overstayed their work or residency visa the opportunity to either legalise their status in the country or return home.

Since the start of the three-month programme in August, thousands of people have attended specially set up immigration centres to apply for the scheme.

By requesting an exit visa, individuals are able to return to their home countries without paying any fines for overstaying illegally.

Some nations including India and the Philippines have also offered to pay the air fares of those wishing to leave.

“I want to be legal, I want to work hard,” said Swaminath, 38, a construction worker who has not returned home to see his family in India for two years.

He revealed how he sends Dh500-600 back to his family each month to help pay for his three children’s school fees in Uttar Pradesh, a northern Indian state.

Swaminath said his employer had failed to renew his work visa last year and he had since been working part-time to keep the money coming in.

He added many of his male contemporaries were in a similar position, working all-hours to pay off loans at home or to assist with medical treatment for loved-ones.

“I will try to get a good employer to hire me and work hard for another year before I go home,” he said. “I’ve a lot of responsibilities so I need to work for my family.”

_______________

Read more on the visa amnesty:

Editorial: Seize this opportunity to sort your visa issues

'Final chance' for UAE's illegal residents as amnesty approaches

Widows and divorcees tell of legal limbo strain as UAE's new mercy visas unveiled

Special report: Unwed expat mothers in legal limbo hope new visa laws will help them

Leaving the UAE: everything you need to know before you go

_______________

This week, consulate officials have begun warning potential applicants wanting to reapply for a valid visa that they should do so by mid-September.

Those requiring replacements for lost passports also need to act fast, they said, as issuing new documents took time.

According to official figures, some 950 Indians, 400 Filipinos and 314 Sri Lankans were given exit visas during the first month of the amnesty.

More recent statistics for the entire UAE have yet to be released, but thousands of people are expected to take advantage of the scheme before it ends on October 31.

Amnesty applicants standing in a queue at the Indian Consul General’s office in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National 

Currently, around 150 Indians approach their consulate in Dubai every day to enquire abut the programme. In total, more than 30,000 citizens have sought assistance since August.

Chathura Weerasekera, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan consulate said those wanting to apply for new visas had to do so by September 15 if they wished to remain in the country.

“We have given out this information on our websites and our officials make it clear to those coming in,” he said.

“People who try later than this will not be able to rectify their status and stay in the country. They will have no option but to leave.

“We expect the numbers of people coming in will go up next month before the deadline ends.

“Some people will wait until the very end. It’s because they want to keep earning money before they go.”

Under the rules of the amnesty, those wanting to return home do not require their passport if it has been lost.

Instead they are given an exit permit for a fee of Dh220, which must be used within 10 days of issue.

Speaking outside the Indian consulate, Dhara Murali said he had lived in the UAE for three years, one of which was without a valid visa.

The construction worker said he left his first job because the wages proved too low, but that he had since been able to send Dh800 a month home to allow his sons to continue their college studies.

“I came here so that I could pay the college fees for my sons,” he said. “I left my first job because I did not earn enough money to send home.

“But I know some good people who will employ me now so I’m hoping my luck will change.”