UAE extends amnesty for people with expired visas

Residents and tourists will have until the end of the year to get a new visa or leave the country

People on tourist or residency visas that expired before March 1 now have until the end of the year to leave the country to avoid overstay fines.

On Tuesday, the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship announced a six-week amnesty period for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many travellers who entered the country to seek work or whose residency visas expired eight months ago were unable to leave the Emirates when the pandemic triggered air travel bans across the world in March.

Others who had lost jobs applied for temporary visit visas while they sought new employment, in some cases ignoring the advice of the authorities and their home embassies.

People who remain in the UAE on expired residency visas face fines of up to Dh315 per week - broken down by Dh25 a day and a further daily Dh20 penalty for failing to renew their Emirates ID. An extra Dh250 is paid when they leave the country.

I encourage them not to postpone [their decision to legally stay or leave] yet again

There is a separate system for those on expired tourist visas, who are hit with Dh200 for the first day, and Dh100 a day after that.

An amnesty period was announced in May with a deadline of August. But Tuesday's announcement gives people until December 31, 2020 to leave the country and avoid paying financial penalties.

It does not extend to people who lost their jobs or whose visa expired after March 1.

Maj Gen Saeed Al Rashidi, director general of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, said all fines would be waived as long as people were leaving the country.

He said the grace period extension would allow offenders to adjust their status in the country before the end of the year.

On Tuesday, diplomatic missions in the UAE said the amnesty would help people stuck in "immigration limbo".

"I hope the Filipinos here stay informed with the latest updates, so they don't incur any fines," Paul Cortes, consul-general of the Philippines Consulate, told The National.

“I encourage them not to postpone [their decision to legally stay or leave] yet again. They’ve had almost a whole year [to correct their status]."

Mr Cortes said many Filipinos took advantage of the previous amnesty deadlines this year and adjusted their visa status.

Ahmed Ali, Pakistani consul-general in Dubai, said his teams would assist illegal Pakistanis with services, including passport renewal and other necessary documents, as much as they could.

“The amnesty is a good initiative by the UAE government and helps people return to their home country without having to pay any fines.

“In the August deadline, a lot of Pakistanis went back and there’s only a few remaining now.”

Both consulates did not provide the number of citizens in the UAE without valid documents.

Many jobseekers on visit visas, tourists and residents became illegal because of the Covid-19 impact. Some reasons included either failing to secure a job, visas expiring after getting laid off or flights and borders closing because of the pandemic.