UAE visa rules latest: all you need to know as amnesty deadline draws near

People with visas that expired or were cancelled before March 1 will not face a re-entry ban if they leave the country by December 30

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Residents and tourists whose visas expired or were cancelled before March 1 must leave the country within the next three weeks to take advantage of the recent amnesty extension announced by the government.

People will not face a ban on re-entry if they leave by the December 30 deadline.

Experts said those who continue to live in the UAE after the end of the year, in the hope of finding a new job, rectifying their status or to attempt to get a tourist visa extension, will face penalties.

They will not be covered by the amnesty spelt out by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship for people whose visas expired before March 1.

The grace period to leave the country was extended from August to November and finally to the end of December to assist residents and travellers stuck in the UAE because of global travel restrictions.

The National interviewed Haider Hussain, a partner at Fragomen, an immigration services company, for an overview of  the rules.

A detailed update covers guidance for residents who have overstayed, tourists with expired documents, people outside the Emirates for more than six months, parents with newborns and students.

When is the amnesty deadline?

The final day of the grace period is December 30, 2020. People must leave the country on or before this date to be eligible for the visa amnesty.

What is the penalty for not leaving the UAE by the end of December?

Residents whose visas were cancelled or expired before March 1, 2020, and have not left the country before December 31, will face overstay fines of Dh25 a day, as well as Dh20 per day for an expired Emirates ID card.

The financial penalties imposed for a lapsed Emirates ID can reach up to Dh1,000.

They will also be charged Dh250 as an administration charge by airport immigration.

The same applies for all dependents.

An immigration official checks documents of passenger at Dubai Airport. WAM

What is the penalty if my tourist visa expired before March 1, 2020?

For tourists whose permits expired before March 1, the penalty will be Dh200 for the first day and Dh100 for every subsequent day.

Will I face a travel ban when I apply for amnesty?

UAE authorities are clear there is no ban on people whose documents expired or were cancelled before March 1 and make use of the amnesty. Once a resident or tourist leaves, their files will be closed and they are free to obtain an employment or tourist visa to return.

How can I ensure I am exempt from fines?

If your visa expired or was cancelled before March 1, 2020, you must arrive at the airport with your passport and flight ticket dated before December 31.

All dependents sponsored by the resident must also depart.

Residents who are investors or business partners must liquidate the company or give up their legal capacity in the company.

Where do I go? Who do I approach?

To apply for the exemption, go to any airport in the UAE. Authorities suggest you arrive six to eight hours before departure to complete all procedures. For Dubai, visit the Dubai Civil Aviation Security Centre, next to Terminal 2, at least 48 hours before departure.

I have been promised a job. Can I amend my visa while staying in the UAE after the grace period ends?

People whose visa expired or was cancelled before March 1 but have not resolved their immigration status should leave the UAE and re-enter on a new entry permit.

Residents who continue to live in the Emirates and change to a new visa will be subject to overstay fines. The waiver is applicable only for those who leave the country.

If offered a new job, the advisable approach is to leave the UAE, have your prospective employer file an "out of country" entry permit to enable your return. You will not have a travel ban if you avail of the amnesty. If you remain without an appropriate visa, you could face fines and a travel ban.

A grace period for those with expired visas will elapse at the end of the year. Courtesy: Emirates

What about people whose visas were cancelled or expired after March 1?

People whose residency visa expired or was cancelled between March 1 and July 12 had until October 10 to rectify their status by renewing, finding new employment or leaving the country.

The standard 30-day grace period to change their status applies to people whose residence permit expired after July 12, after which overstay fines apply.

Tourists with expired visas after March 1 do not fall under the October grace period. They had 30 days to leave the country, obtain a new in-country tourist visa or extend their tourist visa for another 30 days.

What about people with residency visas who have been overseas for more than six months?

Individuals overseas for more than 180 days should check their visa validity on the residency websites.

They are allowed to enter the UAE but need to obtain approval from the General Directorate of Residence and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA)  to enter Dubai.

Approval is granted by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) portal for Abu Dhabi and other emirates.

Once they enter the country, they have 30 days to renew their visa without any fines. They can approach Amer centres or renew their residency permits via their employer.

To check visa status and validity for Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates, check this website.

Dubai residents can check visa status here.

What is the procedure for families with a newborn outside the UAE?

If the main sponsor is in the UAE, they can file an out of country entry permit for the baby.

If the entire family is still out of country, the employer can file a permit for the baby.

Are work permits being issued?

Outside free zones, work permit applications are suspended for people who are overseas.

Companies based in free zones can file an out of country entry permit for new hires.

I’m leaving on holiday, what approvals do I need?

If you are travelling from Dubai, a GDRFA permit is needed to return. For any other emirate, you need ICA approval.

Obtaining the clearance is not a requirement when you leave. It is recommended for your peace of mind to obtain this prior to departure.

It is mandatory to have the permit when you come back into the country.

What is the residency visa procedure for students over the age of 18?

Unmarried girls with family in the UAE can be sponsored by their father. If studying at a university in the UAE, they can be sponsored by the educational institution.

Males over the age of 18 can get a residence permit from the education institution in the UAE.

If sponsored by a parent or guardian, the visa will be renewed on a yearly basis for sons over the age of 18.

Paperwork must confirm the individual is a student overseas, does not have other means of support and is a dependent.

When studying at a university overseas, males between the age of 18 to 21 need a letter confirming they are enrolled in an education programme abroad. This then goes for humanitarian review and approval.

There is no age limit for females on residency visas through their father’s sponsorship.

What are the fines for an expired Emirates identity card?

The penalty is Dh20 a day if not renewed in time, up to a maximum of Dh1,000.

The Emirates identity card is renewed as part of the residency process.