You may have heard of the changes to resident and visitor visas in the UAE, so what’s the fuss all about? Well, quite a bit, actually.
It took us a while to absorb what we’d been hearing and reading, but now that we’re past the shock (the best kind, I might add) phase at the overnight immigration tornado, we can confidently say that these amendments will change the face of UAE immigration as we know it and are most definitely reason (for most, at least) to celebrate.
Here are the 5 most important things you need to know, in people terms (with none of that immigration jargon):
The best news has got to be for nationals of war or conflict-ridden countries.
In line with the UAE’s commitment to be a safe haven and a ‘cocoon,’ if I may, for people from around the world, the government has decided to allow nationals of countries affected by disasters, wars, or conflicts to extend their stay in the UAE for a whole year, regardless of their current status.
And this isn’t even the best part of the story. Those who have accumulated fines for overstaying (and, let me tell you, those can get quite pricey), will have everything waived and can start a clean slate. Is this cool or what?
Divorced or widowed women on dependent visas have to leave no more
I imagine the last thing a woman who’s gotten a divorce or who’s had the unthinkable happen in her family wants to think about is her immigration status.
With the new process in place, griefing women and children or those in families going through a divorce will be allowed to stay in the UAE, legally, while they get back on their feet. What a relief. Apparently, prior to the change, there had been women and children who hadn’t left their homes in months, so they don’t get found out and caught.
Resigned or lost your job? You don’t have to go, just yet!
That’s right. You don’t. With the economy being as shaky as it has been, layoffs on the rise, people more irritable than ever, you no longer have to worry about the insecurity of your job AND what you’re going to do once all is said and done. You now get to stay, without all the sneaking around! Technically, the new 6-month visa is supposed to serve as a tool to help you determine your next move, or you can just chill. But, the point is, you have six months to figure your life out, without having to worry about how deep your fines are.
You’ve made a mistake, and that’s bad, but you now have a chance to redeem yourself.
So, you’ve overstayed your residency visa, or entered the country illegally altogether. Now what. You no longer need to worry about being banned from the UAE forever or having to pay hefty, hefty fines.
The government wants you to 'Protect Yourself via Rectifying Your Status.’ Between August 1, 2018, and October 31, 2018, you’re pardoned:
if you’ve entered the country illegally: you can leave with a ‘no entry’ stamp that’ll only keep you out for two years, not for life. The only caveat is that you enter the country next time with a return ticket; they want to make sure that you are, in fact, peacing out once your visa expires.
if you’ve overstayed your welcome: you can come forward voluntarily, adjust the status, avoid the ban, and be relieved of your fines.
The last time amnesty was granted was five years ago, in 2013. So, yalla, will you take advantage of it this time around?
image courtesy of Khaleej Times, June 2018
And… here are some of my absolute favorites, quickly!
Meritorious students: high-achieving expat students who had been studying in the UAE as dependents of their parents and, naturally, on their visa, can now obtain a two-year video post-graduation to stay and work in the UAE. This allows the country to retain A-list talent and the students an opportunity to work in the land of opportunities. Yay, high GPAs!
Tourists about to get in the car for a visa run: Your tourist visa is about to expire? Before you plan that border run to Oman, listen to this. YOU NO LONGER NEED TO DO A VISA RUN! You now adjust your status inside the UAE. Less money, less hassle, more UAE time. You’re welcome.
Transit visas: you’re flying through the UAE? Why stay at the airport when you can exit and do a little bit of shopping? The government wants you to! You no longer have to apply for your transit visa ahead of time or pay atrocious amounts of money for it. You now get 48 hours for free in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. You could even extend for up to 96 hours for a small 50-dirham fee!
Freelancers, consultants, and the likes? So, this is probably the one law that still isn’t very understandable to most, but will hopefully become clearer in the coming days and weeks. What we do know is this: freelancers and consultants might have an early Christmas present in stock. A 10-year visa. Yep, you heard me. TEN YEARS. Imagine the possibilities. Many are speculating about how positive this could be for niche consulting businesses like real estate. With many projects taking years for completion, this would allow more independent, but excellent talent, to come to the UAE and set up shop.
While it’s great that there are now more opportunities and possibilities that would allow one to go to or stay in the UAE, this shouldn’t mean that the government becomes more lenient in assessing immigration cases. The safety and security in the UAE that we love and value so much has been a result of the government’s efforts; so I hope that they continue to be as stringent with their rules as they have been. ‘Tough on the issues, easy on the people,’ is what a former boss used to say. Amen to that, boss. Amen to that.
Irrespective of the UAE’s intentions for implementing these immigration changes, I’m just thrilled for those who will get to benefit from them, and truly hope that they, too, give back to the country that has sheltered and taken care of them.