Coronavirus: Dubai revamps system to give residents permission to return

Emirates said returning travellers should receive an 'instant response' if they were eligible

Dubai International Airport's Terminal 3, typically buzzing with passengers, stands largely empty in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has hit global aviation hard, particularly at Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest for international travel, due to restrictions on global movement over the virus. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
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Dubai's revamped system to give residents permission to fly home was launched on Monday.

Emirates Airline directed flyers to the GDRFA immigration site and said they would receive an "instant response" if they were eligible to travel.

The website - where applications can be made - is similar to the federal government's Tawajudi system, set up to bring residents home. Only those with a Dubai-issued residency visa are eligible.

Tawajudi has been overloaded with applications in recent months and travellers have had to repeatedly apply. Returning residents with visas from other emirates must continue to apply here.

"You will get an instant response if your application has been approved. If the application cannot be processed at this time, you can try at a later stage," Emirates said in an updated section on its website.

"Only book your ticket back to Dubai after you have received the approval. During the booking process, you will be asked to enter your GDRFA application number."

On a Facebook page set up to help residents overseas, which has more than 24,000 members, some said they received the permission to fly "within two minutes". Others said the system would not accept their application.

Users must enter the long number next to the word "file" on their residency visa - in this format xxx/xxxx/x/xxxxx - and not the "UID no".

The federal government said this month that about 200,000 UAE residents were estimated to be overseas. To date, about 30,000 have been brought home on repatriation flights.

Neeti Rodrigues, 44, from India, was among those who rushed to apply using the new system on Monday.

She travelled to Mumbai on March 19 - the day the UAE borders closed - to see her terminally ill mother, who died of cancer the next day.

Since then, she has tried to get home to see her daughter, Nicole, who has severe epilepsy and autism.

Her Tawajudi application was rejected twice, but on Monday she got permission to travel with Dubai's new system.

I got approval in 15 minutes and did not need to submit anything apart from my passport details

“I got approval in 15 minutes and did not need to submit anything apart from my passport details,” she said.

"Once I put my visa information, my file showed up so as soon as I pressed submit, I got approved," Ms Rodrigues told The National.

Despite that, there are currently no flights from India to the Emirates - just repatriation services in the opposite direction.

She hopes both governments will allow services to resume soon.

“I don’t know what to do with this approval because there is no guidance on flights back. I just need to get on a flight home," she said.

Since her husband's company called staff back to their office their 17-year-old son and a family helper have taken care of Nicole.

"Three months away is unimaginable. I’m hoping both sides will communicate and have an action plan," she said.