x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Philippine ambassador briefed on new visa regulations

The Philippine ambassador has held meetings to discuss the inability of Filipinos to return to the UAE after visa runs.

ABU DHABI // The Philippine ambassador has held high-level meetings with Interior Ministry and immigration officials to discuss the inability of Filipinos to return to the UAE after visa runs to neighbouring countries. Libran Cabactulan met Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, on Nov 12 and on Monday met Brig Nasser al Minhali, the acting director general of the Federal Naturalisation and Residency Department.

The ambassador was briefed on the new laws relating to entry and residency for foreigners, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior. Mr Cabactulan emphasised to Brig Minhali the importance of communication and consultation between the embassy and the immigration department on relevant issues to improve co-operation. A source at the ministry said Brig Minhali told the ambassador that people should not be deceived by travel agencies offering to renew visas while they were in the country. They must return to their home countries and stay for one month before being issued another visa. There are no exceptions to the law, he said.

The new visa regulations, which took effect on July 29, affect people from countries such as India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Russia. Citizens of 33 nations, mostly western, are exempt. Mr Cabactulan said last month that he wanted to meet with senior UAE officials to get a clearer understanding of the new visa rules. Brig Minhali said the rules were intended to give officials better information about people entering the country and their reasons for coming. Filipinos should seek advice either from the Philippine Embassy in the UAE or from the UAE Embassy in Manila on issues related to the visa regulations, he said.

The Philippine Embassy estimates that 500 to 600 Filipinos are still in the border town of Buraimi, Oman, where they went to seek new UAE visas, compared with more than 1,000 who were stranded there last month. The main reason why Filipinos have been stranded at the borders was "lack of knowledge and understanding of the new visa regulations of the country," said Adelio Cruz, consul at the Philippine Embassy.

"Most of them are believed to have relied on general statements given by their travel agencies that their visa run would take only a few days." He said Filipinos should determine whether travel agencies were suspended or blacklisted by immigration authorities and not believe the stories of other Filipinos who were said to have re-entered the UAE after three or four days at the border. rruiz@thenational.ae