x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Families hit by new minimum monthly wage rule for visas

The new immigration rule, which is believed to have come into effect in Dubai last week, more than doubles the previous basic monthly wage requirement of Dh4,000 for sponsoring a spouse and children.

UPDATE: Minimum monthly wage rule for visas not in place, say UAE immigration bosses

DUBAI // Expatriates in the emirate who want to sponsor their families are being refused visas after a new rule lifted the minimum basic wage required to Dh10,000.

The immigration rule, believed to have come into effect in Dubai this week, more than doubles the previous minimum of Dh4,000 for sponsoring family members.

It is unclear if the rule applies only to new residency visas or will also affect those renewing their visas.

The Abu Dhabi Government website says the minimum monthly wage required to sponsor family members is still Dh4,000.

Many residents said they had been rejected by immigration officials since last Sunday because their salaries did not meet the minimum.

“My visa application for my wife and son’s residency was rejected. I was told that my salary was too low,” said Arun Nair, who earns Dh4,100 a month as an administrative officer at a building company.

“I’ve lived apart from my family for three years and I desperately want them to live with me. I’ve spent Dh10,000 renting a new place.

“I don’t know what to do. My wife, who is a nurse, was planning to find a job after coming here. Now we have to look at other options.”

An official at the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department, confirmed the change in rules had been introduced on Sunday but did not give any reason for the change.

A PR officer at a building company said an application from one of its employees had been turned down.

“He earns Dh5,000 and wanted to bring his wife from South Africa to live with him,” said Dorai Raj.

“The officials said they had increa-sed the requirement because the rents, cost of living and everything else has gone up in the UAE, and people could no longer afford to maintain their families on salaries less than Dh10,000.”

Another resident whose application was rejected said it was unfair for the Government to decide on expatriates’ behalf if they could afford to have their families with them.

“Around 60 to 70 per cent of the average family income here is less than Dh10,000,” said Anoop Suresh, a sales supervisor trying to bring his new wife to Dubai.

“When I went to the main immigration office in Bur Dubai to get my wife’s visa made, they refused to give me a token as my salary was low and it had to be Dh10,000.

“Although my salary is Dh5,000, I get allowances and commissions, which sometimes amount to Dh12,000.

“I can manage my expenses and afford to keep my family here. People have been surviving on low salaries for so long. It is not right for the Government to say how much we need to earn to keep our families here.”

According to the Abu Dhabi Government website, the minimum monthly wage required to sponsor family members is still Dh4,000.

Dr Saliha Afridi, a clinical psychologist who treats depression and counsels couples, said being away from loved ones was hard but financial strain could also have a huge impact on families.

“I think it would be important for us to look at the whole picture and also try to understand why the Government would issue such a mandate,” said Dr Afridi, who is also managing director of The Lighthouse Arabia, a community psychology clinic.

“Being away from families and one’s network is one of the most difficult parts of adjusting to expat living. It can bring with it a whole list of difficulties including depression, loneliness, marital conflict and anxiety.

“On the other hand, the cost of living in the UAE is high. Having families in the UAE and providing the basic necessities like shelter, medical care, education and food can also be quiet stressful for individuals earning less than Dh4,000.

“Financial stress is one of the biggest stresses in a relationship. It can lead to discord, disharmony and even divorce.”

Dr Devika Singh, a psychologist at the Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre, agreed that the decision might affect families psychologically.

“It is inevitable that this decision will have a significant impact on the emotional wellbeing of those affected,” the doctor said.

“Although many families function well despite the miles between them, many suffer loneliness, guilt and sometimes depression due to the lack of proximity.”

pkannan@thenational.ae