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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

UAE visa amnesty extended for the month of December

The move comes as a 'generous initiative' to mark the country’s 47th anniversary

Amnesty applicants wait their turn at the Tasheel centre at Al Raha Mall in Abu Dhabi. Satish Kumar / The National
Amnesty applicants wait their turn at the Tasheel centre at Al Raha Mall in Abu Dhabi. Satish Kumar / The National

The UAE government has further extended the country's visa amnesty, which began in August this year.

The move comes as a “generous initiative” to mark the country’s 47th anniversary, officials said.

Brig Gen Saeed Rakan Al Rashidi, director general of the Department of Naturalisation and Residency, said the amnesty, which initially came to an end on November 30, had been extended for 30 days as of December 2.

“This will be a good opportunity for those who did not get a chance to visit the amnesty centres. They now have another chance to benefit from this generous offering,” he told The National on Monday.

Thousands of residents who overstayed their visas or entered the country illegally have already benefited from the amnesty, which originally began on August 1.

They were given the chance to either apply for an exit pass and leave the country without having to pay fines for overstaying their visas, or apply for a six-month visa to allow them time to find a sponsor and legalise their situation.

Originally, the amnesty was scheduled to run for three months, but officials announced a previous extension for the month of November.

With the latest extension, the amnesty is entering its fifth month of operation.

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Paul Cortes, Philippine Consul-General, said the new extension opened the doors for more with immigration violations to come forward and have their status rectified.

There could be as many as 2,000 Filipinos who were not able to benefit from the amnesty due to debt-related court cases, he said.

“They have been given four months now, five including December, so hopefully more will have their respective cases worked out by the years end," he told The National.

“As the amnesty covers only overstaying and absconding cases, we urge all those with these cases to come to the consulate so we can guide them through the procedures.

“The consulate is open to all those who need legal assistance."

No official figures have been released as to how many people have benefited from the amnesty so far, but the Ethiopian embassy in the UAE said 25,002 of its nationals had applied for a six-month visa and obtained new passports, while 4,548 obtained an exit pass and had left the UAE.

According to Bangladesh, 15,000 of its citizens rectified their status, while 5,000 workers obtained an exit pass and left.

From the Philippines, 6,810 applied for the amnesty programme, from which 64 per cent opted to stay in the UAE.

Brig Gen Al Rashidi said he did not know how many more people would apply during the extension, but stressed that anyone in the country illegally should take advantage.

Centres will start receiving applicants on Tuesday.

Leonida Molinos, from the Philippines, said she planned to visit the Shahama amnesty centre this Tuesday to fix the absconding case her former employer had filed against her.

“I did not run away, but my sponsor took my passport to the police and I have an absconding case,” the 36-year-old, who now works as a part-time caterer, said.

“I will tell them I want the six-month visa."

Tassia Falcerose, one of the applicants who started applying for her amnesty on August 1, said she had managed to get her six-month visa in September. She is now working part-time as she continues to look for a sponsor to rectify her status.

However, she said a number of her friends had not been able to benefit from the amnesty.

“One lady went to the amnesty centre in Al Aweer to apply but they told her she was not eligible because she had a baby (outside of wedlock), so she has to go to court and jail first,” she said.

As per UAE law, sex outside of wedlock is a crime and is punished by a jail term and deportation.