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UAE begins visa amnesty scheme for illegal residents

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DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates government’s visa amnesty scheme gets underway from today, allowing illegal residents to leave the country without having to pay overstay fines or getting a ban.

Under the programme, dubbed ‘Protect Yourself by Modifying Your Status’, residency violators can escape legal action, including a fine, by either leaving the country or regularising their status from August 1 until October 31.

Illegal residents will have the option of applying for a temporary six-month visa to allow them to search for employment. However, those who don’t find a job within six months must exit the country.

Those who entered the UAE illegally (without a visa) can exit the country without paying any fines. However, they face a two-year entry ban and can re-enter the UAE only after that period.

The UAE authorities have made arrangements to receive amnesty seekers at nine centres across the country. In Dubai, the centre will be in Al Aweer while in other emirates these will be at the main immigration offices. In Abu Dhabi, the amnesty centres will be at immigration offices in Shahama, Al Ain and Al Gharbia in Al Dhafra Region.

The various foreign diplomatic missions including Pakistan’s have engaged community organisations to enhance awareness about the amnesty scheme. Pakistan Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General of Pakistan in Dubai have set up helpline desks and phone line services to guide amnesty seekers.

A spokesperson for the Pakistan Embassy and Consulate told Khaleej Times that the embassy will be supporting the initiative fully by waiving the fees for outpasses issued and passport extension to amnesty seekers.

“It is going to be zero fees for outpasses and passport extension for seven months,” he said. The original fee charged for an outpass is decided on a case-to-case basis.

The visa relaxation is aimed at lifting the fears of over-staying foreigners, reducing the burden on those facing hefty fines, while encouraging illegal expats to legalise their status or depart voluntarily, without incurring a ban.

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