x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Expats in 57 occupations banned from bringing families with them

The ban on bringing family members into the UAE is part of Government moves to reduce the number of people breaking visa laws.

ABU DHABI // Expatriates working in 57 occupations have been banned from bringing their families to live with them as part of Government moves to reduce the number of people breaking visa laws. Among those who will be unable to bring family include: make-up artists, cooks, bakers, car washers, grave diggers, tailors, waiters and falcon trainers. The new regulation was announced yesterday.

A total of 25,313 visa violators and infiltrators have been caught since an amnesty period ended in Nov 2007, according to figures released by Brig Gen Nasser al Minhali, the acting director of the Naturalisation and Residency Department. "Our main concern is violators. Ninety per cent of the banned professions do not fit the naturalisation and residency laws anyway. I understand that everyone wants their family to be close to them but I have a responsibility to fight violators," Gen al Minhali said.

Low-income employees were often not able to pay visa fees for their families, which turned them into illegal immigrants, he said. "When we identified the 57 occupations, we found a big accumulation of violators between them. For example, there was a person who hired a driver, and then used the driver's family members [as staff], and this driver's salary is Dh1,000 [US$270]. His salary is not enough to find a home.

"Would you accept to accommodate his family members with you in your house?" Ahmad Ali, 34, an Indian waiter, said he believed the law was unfair. "I would like to bring my family," he said, though living conditions were too expensive for him. "They are discriminating against people. It's not fair," said Mihai Andrei, 36, an engineer from Romania. "People should be able to come here and try for themselves." On the other hand, Souman Sarkar, 43, an engineer from India, said he was happy with the new law, as people might end up engaging in criminal activity if they could not afford the steep cost of living in the country. "They will suffer if they come here, they cannot afford it." For those already in the country, however, Gen al Minhali said, residency laws have been revised to ensure they could afford the fees and stay within the law. Under the new law, residents will pay a residency visa fee only once, as opposed to the current system where they pay a fee each time their visa is renewed. The fee will be less than the current one, which varies depending on nationality. The authorities have also stepped up policing with a 24-hour, toll-free tip line to report absconders and illegal immigrants. Gen Minhali said a new housemaids law would also be announced in two months which would include a reduction in fees for getting a maid's visa and the launch of a new agency under the Ministry of Interior that will operate all housemaid recruitment services. Of 25,313 cases of visa fraud uncovered since the last amnesty, 2,967 were infiltrators. Of these, 128 were repeat offenders and were prosecuted. Residents who overstay their residency visas are fined Dh25 for each day, while people who overstay other types of visas are fined Dh100 for each day. Those caught by authorities without a valid visa are deported immediately. A Dh50,000 fine is imposed on employers who recruit foreigners without gaining work permits. hdajani@thenational.ae