x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

'Tourist' job seeker numbers swell in Sharjah

Sharjah officials warn tour companies against bringing illegal immigrants to the country.

SHARJAH // Tour companies in Sharjah have been cautioned against bringing in job seekers on tourist visas - a practice that officials say is growing.

The warning came yesterday in a meeting between the tour companies and the Sharjah Department of Residency and Foreign Affairs.

"It is a responsibility of a tourist company to distinguish between job seekers and tourists before submitting their visa applications," said Brig Dr Abdullah bin Sahoo, the director general of the department. "The company will be held responsible for any visitor that disguises himself as a tourist and stays to find jobs."

Among concerns from the tour companies were age restrictions: only men older than 18 and women older than 30 can apply for tourist visas in Sharjah. Brig bin Sahoo replied: "The women age limit is for security reasons, and like all such reasons, it's not in our hands."

Other tour operators said urgent visas were being delayed even after payment of a fast-service fee.

Brig Thani Al Shamsi, deputy director of the department, said the delays were a result of incomplete documents or overlap in applications. "Some tour companies after applying for a normal visa would again apply for an urgent one because the first one is delayed," he said.

Another operator asked when applications could be processed online. Brig bin Sahoo said internet-based services for entry visas for employment were available and residency visa applications would soon follow.

Brig bin Sahoo said tour companies must now provide additional information to the department, such as dates of arrival and departures, accommodations and places to be visited while in the country.

The department is ranking the companies on how they comply, he said, breaking them into three tiers. "A period of six months has been given from today to all companies that are not fulfilling our conditions to modify, or close," he said.

According to figures released at the meeting, the department issued 49,583 tourist visas in 2009, 75,008 in 2010, and 33,473 in the first five months of this year.

ykakande@thenational.ae