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UAE’s revised visa extension rules place migrants in precarity

On July 18, 2020

The UAE Cabinet announced on 10 July that it has rescinded its earlier decision which extended residency and visit visas for foreign residents cost-free until 31 December 2020. 

Instead, resident permit holders now have only a three-month grace period to renew their visas and documents starting from 11 July 2020, after which they shall incur fines. 

Authorities also announced that holders of visit visas, tourist visas and entry permits that expired after 1 March must leave the country by 11 August or face penalties, those who can’t leave by 11 August can apply for a one-time one month grace period extension after which the entry permit or the visit visa holder must exit the country.

A previous order that waived fines for those on visit visas that expired before 1 March for a period of three months, starting from 18 May onwards, still stands.  

UAE residents who are outside of the country and whose visa expired after 1 March and have stayed out of the country for six months or more will be granted a waiver on any fees effective from the date of the resumption of airspace between UAE and the respective sending country as determined by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA).

According to local media, this decision comes after UAE authorities deemed that extension until the end of the year will not be required as the country returns to “normalcy” and international flights resume. 

However, several countries have still not resumed flights. These abrupt policy reversals will negatively impact migrants who are stranded in the UAE, many who have lost their jobs and are likely to be unable to find a new one in the current economy.  Without an income, migrants will also struggle to purchase a ticket home or pay for a renewal.  

The about-face has startled many migrants, who must now scramble to find a solution. It’s also likely that many migrants will be unaware of the new changes. A Dubai government website still features old information about the original visa extension. 

Due to disruptions caused by Covid-19, other GCC countries have declared extensions of visas for free. Saudi Arabia recently renewed extension of visas for another 3 months. In Bahrain, work permit holders are granted a grace period until the end of this year, and on 21 April, Bahrain announced that visit-visa holders will have their visas automatically renewed for 3 months, but it’s still unclear whether the extension will be renewed.