Bahrain’s Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs (NPRA) announced yesterday that it will renew a three-month extension of all visit visas for expatriates automatically and free of charge until 21 January 2021. This is the third such extension by the NPRA.
According to the NPRA, the extension comes with the aim of providing the opportunity for visitors who are stranded in Bahrain since the Covid-19 pandemic to correct their residency status or facilitate their departure when flights are available.
Bahrain allows visit-visa holders to transfer to work visas without exiting the country, the decision to extend visit visas for free will provide a reprieve for those who require more time to find a job they can transfer to or those stranded due to travel restrictions. This is a welcome move especially given the high cost of extending visit visas in Bahrain, which costs BD 25 (USD 66) for every two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) has recently started to intensify its inspection campaigns for those violating the Flexi-Permit regulations, adding that those caught working in prohibited professions will be deported and blacklisted.
Other GCC states have also extended free visa renewals due to the closure of international borders, but with the ease of travel restrictions, some GCC countries have stopped visa extensions.
Saudi Arabia’s extension of resident IDs (iqama) and visas came to an end on September 30th. However, Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Passports announced on Friday that it will automatically extend the validity of final-exit visas for expatriates in the Kingdom until 31 October 2020 free of charge, adding that it has extended the validity of 28,884 final exit visas.
Meanwhile, Oman announced on 15 October that it will not allow expats whose work permits expired while they were stuck abroad from returning to the Sultanate.
In Kuwait, expired visit visas and residency permits will be automatically renewed until 1 December.
The UAE has started receiving visa renewal applications on 12 July after a Cabinet decision cancelled all resolutions relating to the automatic extension of visas. The UAE started to fine those whose visas have expired between March 1 to July 12 from 11 October onwards.
It is important to note that under the kafala system, the decision and the responsibility to renew work permits lies at the hand of the sponsor and not the worker, leaving the latter vulnerable to becoming irregular through no fault of their own.