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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

UAE tourists face long queues at Omani borders despite applying for new eVisa 

Travellers claim online application process is failing, leading to long queues at border posts 

The Hatta border crossing between the UAE and Oman. Satish Kumar / The National 
The Hatta border crossing between the UAE and Oman. Satish Kumar / The National 

UAE residents have spoken of their frustration at being forced to wait in long queues at the Oman border even after applying for visas online.

Tourists heading to the country over recent weeks said customs’ apparent confusion over the new eVisa system was leading to significant delays.

The issue began after the Royal Oman Police announced, in March, that it would no longer issue visas on arrival and that citizens who required tourist visas to enter the country, had to obtain them in advance online.

But over the past few weeks, individuals who had applied for visas online were still being made to wait at the border.

Last Thursday, Stuart McCready, 27, from New Zealand, applied for two eVisas online ahead of a weekend trip to Salalah with his partner.

“We have been to Oman before. We drove to Muscat last year and there were no issues at the border,” he said.

“When planning this trip I considered how things can often change here, so I thought I would check, just in case, and low and behold it said in a lot of forums that you need to do an online visa application. I did that as quickly as possible for my partner and I. That was the day before the trip.”

Mr McCready’s partner received her eVisa within a couple of hours of it being approved. But his visa did not come through in time for the trip, so he had to reapply at the border in person.

“It was a bit chaotic, to be perfectly honest,” he said.

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“There were lines but people seemed to come and go as they pleased. There were people in line with six or seven passports in their hand as well. So you never knew — having one person in front of you didn’t necessarily mean that once you got to the front it would be a quick process,” said Mr McCready, who has lived in Dubai for almost two years.

Because they are both Kiwis, there was no charge for their tourist visa, so Mr McCready did not have to pay twice.

But other tourists had to.

Zoe Mamacita, a Brit who lives in Abu Dhabi, applied, and paid, for five tourist visas for her family online through the eVisa system for a week-long trip from August 10 to 17, but four failed to process.

After waiting in a queue for an hour and a half at the Mezyad border, she told immigration officers in Oman what happened. They said they did not have access to the eVisa system and she would have to reapply.

“I explained and showed receipts to say we had already paid but he said we would have to pay again,” she said.

“We weren't happy about it, but we felt that it was the only way to continue on our journey. The funny thing was that my understanding of getting an eVisa was to avoid queuing up,” said Mrs Mamacita, 40.

“I thought you would be able to drive through with the papers. However, everyone around me with eVisas had to queue and the visa had to be transferred from the paper to the passport anyway.”

Others complained about the same issue online.

“That is so true. You still have to queue and show them your visa and get your passport stamped,” wrote one member of the Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook page during a discussion on the topic.

Writing on The National’s Facebook page, a number of tourists confirmed that they had obtained visas on arrival, despite the announcement in March by the government that they would no longer be available.

“Visas on arrival are very much available,” wrote one.

*This article has been updated since its publication

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