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UAE Launches Visa Amnesty Scheme for Illegal Foreign Residents

Construction workers in Dubai

The United Arab Emirates launched a visa amnesty program on Aug.1, which will enable foreign workers overstaying their permits to leave the country without paying any fine or undergoing jail term. It will also allow workers to look for a new job within six months.

A large number of laborers, primarily from countries such as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Philippines, will be benefited from the newly launched amnesty scheme, which will ease the process of their return, and aid the process of renewing their visa.

Visa violators before Aug. 1, 2018 will be able to rectify their status legally during the amnesty period, which will end on Oct. 31, according to the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA), the entity responsible for entry and residence of foreigners in the UAE. Individuals who have been blacklisted or those who have a case pending against them are not eligible to avail the amnesty scheme.

Those who entered the country illegally will also be given amnesty, but they will exit the country with a two-year ban, Khaleej Times reported. A fee of Dh220 will be charged on the exit permit, and individuals have to leave within 10 days of getting the exit pass, the report added.

All absconding reports filed by employers against their workers with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation will be cancelled for the visa amnesty. The ministry will also issue new work permits to them if they get a new job, the publication said in another report.

This is the third such amnesty offered by the country over a decade, media reports said.

As soon as the amnesty program was launched on Aug.1, hundreds of immigrants were seen standing and waiting outside their respective visa outsourcing agencies, the Gulf News reported.

To spread awareness about the program, several community organizations have put up help desks in their premises to smoothen the process for amnesty seekers.

A number of Indian workers, mainly from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, told the publication that they were unable to fly back home as they could not pay the penalties imposed on them for visa violations.

Among the Indian laborers and housemaids who arrived at the main BLS Centre in Al Khaleej Centre in Dubai, was Laxmi Devi Reddy, a housemaid who fled her employer’s house because of restrictions placed on the phone calls she made back home, the report said. She was allowed to talk to her family only once a month. Her outpass expired in June.

“I got it extended for one more month. I had also paid all the fines. But I couldn’t go as I didn’t get police clearance. I think my sponsor has filed a case against me,” she was quoted as saying. “I need to apply again and get the case cleared if it is there. I really hope that I can go home without any more fines.”

The UAE is home to an estimated 2.8 billion Indian emigrants, the largest expatriate community in the country, PTI reported.