Filipinos urged not to purchase illegal work visas for UAE
ABU DHABI // Sales of illegal UAE visas are rampant, according to an expatriate-rights group that says it handles at least two cases a month of those caught holding them.
Karen Tanedo, chairwoman of Migrante UAE, said those seeking illegal visas either paid a broker, or an Emirati sponsor.
Ms Tanedo said that, in most cases, brokers take off with the money without delivering processed visas.
“It happened to my Filipino friend,” she said. “He bought a visa for Dh10,000 from a Filipina who knew of an Emirati who was selling visas to expatriates.”
But when the time came to renew his three-year visa, he learnt that it had not been processed.
“Now he’s stuck in the UAE without a visa,” Ms Tanedo said. “His wife’s job does not allow her to sponsor him and their baby.”
Giovanni Palec, the Philippine consul in Dubai, said applicants for work visas should always go through the legal channels.
This month, at least two Filipinos who bought illegal visas and were promised non-existent jobs approached the consulate seeking help to return to their home country, Mr Palec said.
“They were led to believe that their visas would be processed. They decided to come to us to facilitate their repatriation.”
Jobs can be applied for using recruitment agencies accredited with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
“Some see it as a burden but there is mechanism to protect them if they encounter problems with their employers,” Mr Palec said.
Ms Tanedo said an illegal visa for a housemaid costs between Dh8,000 to Dh10,000. “For other occupations, such as managers, it could be up to Dh18,000.”
Her friend was reluctant to go to the consulate for help, but Mr Palec said that would change.
“They have no choice but to come to us, otherwise they will remain in limbo,” he said.
“The sooner they can approach us, the better. But some people prefer to stay longer in the UAE and continue to earn money. They’re taking a lot of risks.”
Anyone found to be living or working in the UAE illegally faces fines of Dh100 a day for visa offences and Dh25 a day for residency offences.
The Ministry of Interior can also impose a fine of Dh50,000 on any company or individual found to be employing workers illegally.
A UAE employment visa is arranged by an employer for an expatriate to enter the UAE.
The sponsor or employer then arranges a residence visa and work permit.
The residence visa allows expatriates to live in the country for a determined period of time, usually two or three years between renewals.
Many Filipinos think the sponsor has done them a favour by providing a visa so they can freely work part-time for various employers, said Michael Barney Almazar, 32, a Dubai-based Filipino lawyer.
His firm, Gulf Law, receives at least one case a month involving Filipinos trying to recover their money from a sponsor or broker.
“The victims bought an employment or an investor visa but the sponsor or broker ran away,” Mr Almazar said.
“The sad thing is they cannot file a case because buying a visa is illegal and they will be prosecuted if they report the incident to the police.”
Those who spend a fortune for investor visas are unaware they can get one legally by setting up their own free zone company.
“They can form the company with their friends and share the cost among them,” Mr Almazar said.
The Ministry of Interior’s Naturalisation, Residency and Port Affairs sector was not available for comment.
Updated: February 20, 2014 04:00 AM