During the summer, some OFWs opt to escape the heat to colder countries or go home in the Philippines back to their families. But with the recent announcement from the UAE cabinet, OFWs who long to see their children and young ones may not have to leave the country anymore.
Starting July 15 up to September 15 each year, the visa fees for kids under the age of 18 will be waived. With 90-day visas averaging around Dh 900 – Dh 1000, parents can now save that money to pool them to other expenditures during their kids’ vacation here in the UAE. This presents an opportunity for OFWs to bring their children here with lesser costs as well as the chance for the kids to explore the UAE together with their parents.
Bringing the OFW family together in the UAE
Filipino mothers, who after giving birth to their kids here in the UAE had to send them back home, are planning to take advantage of the visa-free rule. Such is the case of Sheryl Palacios-Manalo, a Senior Health Unit Coordinator, who has an 8-year old and a 6-year old back home: “Yung dalawang anak ko, ipinanganak ko dito tapos nasa Pilipinas na sila. Nung malaman ko na visa-free na ang mga bata, naisipan ko nang mag-ipon ng pamasahe nila para next year, God willing, madala ko sila dito sa UAE.”
Parents are now excited to grab the chance to bring their kids to the country for a short visit. “I’m excited that the visa has been waived for my kid. Nadala ko siya dito back in 2015… tapos ngayon with the visa-free rule, airfare na lang ang i-intindihin ko.” said Edita Bautista, an HR and Administration Coordinator in Abu Dhabi.
Gypsy Watanabe, an Administrative Staff in Abu Dhabi and a mother of two kids, hailed the decision as something that’s “uplifting and emotionally supportive”. She added that the decision is a “milestone” for OFWs here in the UAE. “It is all about fostering the value of a family as the core unit of the community. A happy family will definitely create a more productive and efficient individual. This is family tourism at its best,” said Watanabe.
Expected tourism boom in the UAE
As the UAE’s airports have reached a combined 32.8 million passengers during the first quarter, airline industries have also lauded the UAE government’s decision to bring families closer during the summer season. Philippine Airlines Area Manager Agnes Pagaduan adds that the visa will bring families closer as children who have yet to start school can now go to the UAE to meet their parents and spend quality time with them: “Para ito sa mga kababayan natin na may mga anak sa Pilipinas na sa September pa magsisimula ang school. Pagkakataon nila ito para magbonding bago sila ulit pumasok,” said Pagaduan.
Charo Logarta Lagamon, Director Corporate Communications of Cebu Pacific, adds that the move not just eases the expenditures of the parents to bring their kids abroad, it also allows them to show their kids the wonders of the UAE while staying on a budget: “We welcome the law enacted by the UAE cabinet exempting minors from visa fees during the holiday season. This will encourage more UAE-based Filipino parents to bring their children and spend quality time bonding as a family, while sight-seeing and enjoying the attractions. The decision by the UAE Cabinet will also enable more families to consider vacationing in the UAE. Exemption from visa fees also means less travel expenses. We have observed that many Filipinos are turning to budget traveling and are more open to flying with Low Cost Carriers. Less funds allocated for airfare and visa fees means more budget flexibility for families to spend experience new things outside the Philippines with their families and friends.”
MPQ Tourism CEO Malou Prado said that the free visa for the children is a privilege for the OFW parents who have longed to see their children back home but weren’t able to do so. “They (children) can enter and tour the UAE’s popular spots and go shopping in Dubai. This will benefit both the tourism sector and the tourism companies here,” said Prado.
Travel agencies, while known to process both visas and airfare processes, remain optimistic that the move will generate not only foot traffic to their offices, but towards a better economy for the UAE. “Loss man ito sa mga nagbi-visa, magiging favorable naman ito para sa inbound tourism industry dito sa UAE,” said Cab Travel and Tourism admin executive Karen Zelchua.