x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Workers fear being kept from families

Expatriates living in shared accommodation in Sharjah fear new visa rules will prevent them from bringing their families to the emirate.

SHARJAH // Expatriates living in shared accommodation in Sharjah fear new visa rules will prevent them from bringing their families to the emirate. Anyone applying for a family visa must now provide a tenancy contract. The move comes as officials are trying to end the practice of multiple families sharing a single house. One man, from India, said the requirement for a rental agreement left a planned reunion with his wife in doubt. "The immigration officials are asking for a tenancy contract on my name if I want a visa for my wife," he said. "I live in a shared accommodation and when my wife comes we will share a home with another family. The house contract is not in my name."

Lt Col Saleem al Mazaina, the head of the visa section at the Sharjah Naturalisation and Residency Department, said officials were aware that families with limited means were pressed to find affordable housing, but that living in overcrowded conditions was not in anyone's best interest. "A family is very essential to everyone and that is why we want only those that can afford a decent accommodation to bring their families here." Lt Col Mazaina said a significant number of families could be affected by the new visa condition.

There was some respite, however, for some. Yesterday, immigration officers were apparently giving residency permits to those with tenancy contracts in the name of a close relative and to those who could prove that their house was used equally among two families. Sharjah Municipality, claiming that overcrowding was causing environmental and health problems, began evicting families who shared accommodation earlier this year.

Just last month, Mohammed Salim al Kaabi, the head of security for the municipality, said it had found 23 families - each with two to four members - living at one villa. @Email:ykalande@thenational.ae