The vague, vast world of UAE visas
The country is planning on implementing several new visa rules. Are they making life better or harder?
January 8, 2009 4:57 by Aarti Nagraj
Possible changes in the UAE visa rules are now being announced regularly. On January 6, Khaleej Times reported that the Ministry of the Interior is considering a Federal National Council proposal that visitors to the UAE will have to furnish a clean police record and a bank statement from their country of origin.
Two days later, the paper says the Ministry is also planning to stop issuing visit visas for small businesses, and restricting the number for large companies.
The intention for both of them is that Ministry figures reportedly show that 80 percent of pickpockets and thieves caught in recent crimes entered the country on tourist and business visas. Also, authorities say that a number of small companies are trading in visit visas and profiting illegally from them.
A week ago, The National reported that expatriates working in 57 occupations including cooks, bakers, waiters, tailors and make-up artists have been banned from bringing over their families to the UAE. Low-income employees were often not able to pay visa fees for their families, which turned them into illegal immigrants, authorities told the paper.
Authorities hope that putting strict guidelines on visas will help reduce all these issues. But every new rule issued will mean further inconvenience to tourists and residents in the country.
In July 2008, the UAE introduced new visa rules, and one of them left many people stranded. Earlier, those with visit visas could renew them in a single day by leaving the UAE and going to the Kish island in Iran or Buraimi in Oman. But the new rules require a visa holder to leave the country for at least a month. So several people, mainly Filipinos, were stuck on Kish, waiting for their new visas to arrive. According to Khaleej Times, the number was around 5,000 in September last year.
The costs have also gone up. Short-term visit visas, which are applicable for 30 days, now cost AED 500, instead of AED 220. They also need evidence of medical insurance, and an AED1000 deposit (some nationalities may be exempt).
The long term visit visa needs the same requires, but costs AED1,000 and is applicable for 90 days.
The new visa rules also state that residents can only sponsor immediate relatives.
Dubai plans to have 10 million tourists by 2010 and 15 million by 2015. And neighboring Abu Dhabi plans to have 3 million tourists by 2015.
While it is essential to ensure the safety and security of the country, the authorities also have to make the UAE as easy place to visit. Or else the tourists may not come calling.