x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

'Paperless' UAE residency visa to cut long queues

New electronic system will reduce steps and aims to reduce queues at screening centres.

ABU DHABI // Obtaining residence visas will be made easier with the launch of an electronic system.

The changes will also cut crowds at medical screening centres.

The Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (Haad) will link electronically to the Immigration Department at the Ministry of Interior, which will cut the number of trips that people applying for or renewing visas will have to make.

"We are revising the process to improve visa screening by electronic linkage with Immigration," said Dr Farida Al Hosani, the manager of Haad's communicable diseases department.

People applying for a visa must undergo medical tests for conditions such as HIV and TB, which are performed at one of ten screening centres.

If their results are negative, a certificate giving them the all-clear is issued within 72 hours.

Currently, an applicant or their sponsor must return to the centre to collect a copy of the certificate and take it to Immigration.

"We will eliminate the middle process, where they don't need to go back to the centres," said Dr Al Hosani. "They will receive an SMS telling them that the tests are complete and they can proceed to Immigration. So instead of three steps, it becomes only two."

"The main objective is to facilitate the process of the visa issuance. We are aiming really to improve the satisfaction of the community, of the public, for this service and also to decrease the crowdedness in the centres. It will be paperless."

The electronic system will be launched this year but a date is yet to be decided. A pilot programme began last year.

A new TB test that will take only three days, instead of six weeks will also be introduced this year.

More than a million people were screened for residence visas in the emirate last year, both newcomers and renewals. There were 160 HIV cases and 4,948 TB cases.

ecleland@thenational.ae