Hundreds of expats in Dubai have so far taken advantage of the UAE’s amnesty for workers who have entered the country illegally or overstayed their visa, according to UAE officials.
As part of the amnesty programme - which lasts for three months – illegal residents are allowed to leave the country without fees or penalties, or apply for a six-month visa to allow them to search for employment.
It excludes, however, those who are "blacklisted" or with legal cases pending.
The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) revealed that 1,534 overstaying residents applied on the first day of amnesty programme at its centres in Al Aweer and Amer.
Speaking at a media briefing on Thursday, Brigadier Khalaf Al Ghaith, GDRFA assistant director general of Follow-up Sector of Violators and Foreigners said the breakdown of figures showed that 416 applied for visa cancellation without changing their status, while 408 applied to renew their visa and 260 modified their residency status. A further 124 were absconding cases.
The first Indian national to complete the amnesty procedure was 54-year old tile-cutter Girraj Prasad, who said he violated residency laws only because his company did not renew his visa.
“They kept me waiting for months after January. Finally, I filed a labour complaint,” he told Gulf News. “After that, the company paid the pending salaries for two months and gave me a ticket to go home without fines during amnesty.”
Many of those seeking to avail of the amnesty programme said they were pleased at how efficient the service was.
Another amnesty seeker told The National said she was returning to the Philippines after 13 years, having been stranded in the UAE two years ago when her husband returned to his native Pakistan to look for work.
“My husband had no choice,” the expatriate, Rose Mary, told the newspaper. “There was a lot of trouble, trouble with cheques and trouble with rent. I wanted to children to study here because our visas were valid.
“But now we have no choice. All of us must leave because our papers have expired and we don’t have the money to pay the fines for overstaying,” she added. “This amnesty has saved our life. Everyone is so happy because otherwise how could we pay so much in fines.”
Earlier this week, the GDRFA unveiled two large tents in which those seeking to normalise their residency status can go for help during the amnesty period.
The centre – in Dubai’s Al Aweer area – will be able to handle 3,000 people and will be open until October 31. The centre will be open from 8am to 8pm each day, with 40 counters available with officers speaking a variety of languages.
People seeking to regularise their visa status can also go to one of Dubai’s 43 Amer centres, where they will be able to process visa paperwork or clear absconding cases.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.