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Stay legal: Filipinos urged to update visa status in UAE

As a single mother, Dubai-based OFW ‘Mariaflor’ missed majority of ‘Anna’s’ teenage life as she continued working in the UAE to provide a better life for ‘Anna’, so she figured bringing her to the country this February was the best time for them to bond.
The UAE’s recent announcement of the visa suspension as one of the measures of the government to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country alerted Mariaflor as she initially intended to enjoy a quick vacation at Oman in time for her daughter’s visa expiry to renew it. Now, she’s left thinking what her next step would be.
“Hindi ko alam kung sign ba yun na pauwiin ko na lang yung anak ko o kung makakahanap pa ako ng ibang paraan kasi parang ang bilis dumaan ng araw na nakasama ko siya dito,” said Mariaflor.
Seeking clarifications
Mariaflor was among the thousands of Filipinos who phoned in several travel agencies that were equally stunned by the numbers of people calling them for similar inquiries.
Pinoy Tourism & Travels Sales Manager Rudini Bayona said that many Filipinos that day did another kind of what she termed as ‘panic buying’ – this time, for visa processing. “We found out about the news on visa suspension last March 14, Saturday and that day we catered to a huge bulk of calls and inquiries as if there was a panic buying for visa changes,” recalled Bayona.
Finding alternatives
Majority, if not all travel agencies, usually offer Airport-to-Airport (A to A) or Border-to-Border (B to B) services at a more affordable cost just to extend the validity of the visa. However, with the announcement of the restrictions on border crossing in Oman, both facilities have been unavailable for many tourists, including Filipinos.
This is why many Filipinos and visitors from other countries have been advised to either opt for a visa extension or a visa change status while inside the country. The catch? Both options are considerably pricier compared to the A-to-A and B-to-B options.
The silver lining is that both options help these visitors to not only get to stay within the country legally, they also get to practice social distancing as they need not visit airports nor do long drives at the borders any longer.
Bayona furthered that both options of either visa extension or visa change status while within the country allow their clients to avoid a more serious offense: Overstaying.
“We are doing the visa extension an visa change inside the country so less hassle for them, this also allows them to do social distancing sing they no longer need to go to the airport as well,” said Bayona.
Monitor and Comply
Philippine Consul General in Dubai Paul Raymond Cortes advised Filipinos to consult the immigration officers about their available options pertinent to the validity of their visas in the UAE so as to minimize the risk of overstaying or violating UAE immigration laws.
The Philippine Embassy in the UAE, meanwhile, has advised Filipinos to constantly monitor updates regarding travel to and from the Philippines, as well as comply with the country’s immigration laws and ensure that they renew their visas before expiry to stay legal.
In an interview with The Filipino Times, the Embassy urged Filipinos in the UAE to consult with relevant authorities regarding the renewal of visas—such as the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship.
However, for Filipinos who want to be repatriated, the Embassy will still provide assistance and that the process is still the same, but it could be affected by the travel restrictions imposed by both the UAE and Philippine authorities, as well as the availability of commercial flights.
“As these official pronouncements depend on rapidly changing developments, all Filipinos in the UAE are advised to constantly monitor official pronouncements regarding travel as well as notification from airlines,” said the Embassy.
The Embassy also encouraged Filipinos to heed the advice and “comply with the respective measures put in place by the Philippine Government and the UAE Government to protect people from the further spread of COVID19,” it added.
Meanwhile, the Inter Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases has lifted the ban on international flights flying in and out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport—with all travelers now allowed to fly out of the country at any time, except for Filipino tourists. They will, however, be subject to strict immigration and quarantine protocols.
Overstaying penalties
In October 2019, the UAE has updated the list of offenses that punish erring individuals with fines instead of having them undergo court hearings, among them is overstaying.
The UAE government’s official portal states that after an initial grace period of 10 days upon visa expiry, tourist and visit visa holders who overstay beyond the aforementioned period will be fined with Dh200 for the first day of overstay, Dh100 for each consecutive day and Dh100 as service fees.

Staff Report

The Filipino Times is the chronicler of stories for, of and by Filipinos all over the world, reaching more than 236 countries in readership. Any interesting story to share? Email us at [email protected]

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