Number of absconding cases filed in UAE rises as people overstay tourist visas

Travel agencies are warning visitors about breaking entry rules as breaches soar

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Travel agencies in the UAE are increasingly filing absconding cases against clients who overstay their visa.

Many jobseekers, often from countries in Asia and Africa, travel to the UAE on tourist visas in search of employment.

A new jobseeker visa category was introduced, however, the minimum requirement to be eligible is a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent level of education.

Travel agents said the rising number of overstay cases is causing reputational damage for their companies with immigration authorities, and that their visa portal can be blocked.

Libin Varghese, operational director of Rooh Tourism, told The National the company has issued more than 10 absconding cases in the past week.

“The first thing is that it is not a new action, this was always the case. Anyone who overstays can be marked as absconding," he said.

“We’re issuing absconding now because the overstay counts are really high right now.

“Now the portal is really busy with overstaying cases and if that count is too high, then we can’t issue the visa. To protect ourselves, we are issuing absconding.”

Travel agencies often issue tourist visas under their sponsorship, which means they are held responsible for ensuring that the client leaves the country on time.

There is a minimum fine of Dh2,000, which increases each day, on absconding cases.

Travel agencies must cover the costs if the client cannot be reached.

Absconding is a criminal offence in the UAE. Those who do not adjust their visa status can be held at the airport and then deported.

They also face an entry ban into the country.

Robin Pathrose, sales manager at Kingsland Travels, said his company has filed more than 25 absconding cases in the past week.

“There a lot of people who come on visit visas and then stay illegally after their visa has expired,” he said.

“And if they’ve come under the sponsorship of the travel agency, then we are responsible.

“Immigration does not let us apply for new visas when there are too many absconding cases and that really affects us.”

Some travel agencies have also been posting warning notifications on social media, urging people to exit the country before their visa expires.

New UAE visa rules that came into effect on October 3 allow visit visa holders to stay for 60 days at a time.

The decision to make all entry visas valid for 60 days from the date of issue ― double the previous allowance ― is one of a series of visa changes that were approved by the Cabinet in April.

Previously, there was no specific visa for tourists and those wishing to visit the UAE applied for 30-day, 60-day or 90-day visit visas.

The one, two and three-month entry permits are still available on a new visa, but mainly for people wishing to visit friends or relatives in the country, which requires documentary evidence proving the relationship and reasons for the visit.

All entry visas are available for single or multiple entry and can be renewed for a further 60 days.

Who is the tourist visa for?

Those who do not qualify for a visa on arrival or visa-free entry to the UAE can apply for a tourist visa.

Citizens from 69 countries and states are eligible for a visa on arrival in the UAE. Females below the age of 18 are not eligible to apply for a tourist visa unless they are travelling with their parents.

Visitors from countries that do not have a visa-on-arrival arrangement with the UAE can apply for their visas in advance through a travel agency or through the airline with which they are travelling.

Updated: February 04, 2023, 11:22 AM