UAE Amnesty 2018: Foreign missions fear rush for passports

Diplomats urge people to apply soon after amnesty begins on August 1 to avoid delays

Dubai: Visa overstayers wishing to regularise their residency status during the amnesty starting on August 1 are urged to submit their applications at the earliest to avoid delays if they do not have passports.

Diplomatic missions of labour-sending countries are gearing up to issuing passports to amnesty applicants seeking to stay back in the country.

Visa violators have an option with the title “Protect Yourself via Regularising Your Status” to get resident visas to continue living in the UAE during the three-month amnesty, from August 1.

Undocumented residency violators, especially with absconding cases against them, were required to leave the country in the previous amnesties.

In the past, the main role of diplomatic missions in the amnesty was to issue emergency travel document [commonly known as out-pass] to applicants who did not have a valid passport to return to their home countries. Some missions also offered assistance with flight tickets for the needy.

Since they will likely be required to issue many number of passports also for amnesty applicants without a valid passport seeking to rectify their illegal status this time, the missions are urging such applicants to start the procedures early.

Clearance and printing delays

Many labour-exporting countries are not printing passports in the UAE. The applications have to be sent back home for clearance and printing which may take weeks in some cases.

In the case of Bangladeshis, Ambassador Mohammad Imran said it takes up to six weeks to issue passports for people applying from the UAE since the applications have to be sent to Dhaka.

“All passports are printed in Dhaka. So it takes time,” he said.

He clarified that if an amnesty seeker applies for a passport on October 1 thinking that there is still one more month to go, he or she may not be able to get the passport before the end of amnesty on October 31.

Similar issues are likely to be faced by Sri Lankan applicants also.

Charitha Yattogoda, consul-general of Sri Lanka to Dubai and Northern Emirates, said typically it takes between five and eight weeks for a Sri Lankan passport to be issued.

“We are trying to expedite the procedures during the amnesty. We will seek the support of Colombo to deliver the new passports at the earliest.”

In the case of Pakistani expats, a diplomat said an urgent passport can be issued in 10 days if at least the copy of the previous passport is available along with a police report about the loss of passport.

In the absence of such documents, verifications will have to be done using the citizenship number on the Pakistan identity card.

The Indian Consulate in Dubai said the mission is prepared to handle the additional load of passport applications.

“Generally we issue passports within five days if the applicant has the required documents,” said a diplomat.

However, he pointed out that the passport issuance will be delayed if the previous passport of the applicant was not valid for more than three years as they will require clearance from the office that issued the previous passport in India.

It is not clear if the UAE authorities will allow such applicants to regularise their status even after the amnesty period if they provided the proof of applying for the passport to legalise their visa within the six-month grace period announced by the government.

Exit papers

According to diplomats, even those who require an emergency travel document to exit the country without a ban also need to apply soon if they do not have any proof to establish their nationality.

In such scenarios, they will be required to get some documents verified from their home countries to be eligible to get out-passes.

“If we have the previous passport details, we can certainly immediately issue a travel document. If they don’t even have that, we need a police report from Sri Lanka,” said Yattagoda.

Applicants with documents to prove their nationalities are not likely to face any delays in getting emergency travel documents, diplomats said.

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