Several tourists, upon checking their e-visa status online, confirmed that their visas have been automatically extended.
Holders of expired tourist visas can now stay in the country until March 31, Khaleej Times has learnt.
A source with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) said the facility has been extended to holders of expired one-month and three-month visit and tourist visas.
Moreover, travel agents confirmed to Khaleej Times that the validity of Dubai visas they applied for on behalf of their clients have been automatically extended to March 31. Several tourists, upon checking their e-visa status online, also confirmed to Khaleej Times that their visas have been automatically extended.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had on December 27 announced a free one-month visa extension to all tourists. It came when several countries, especially in Europe, imposed lockdowns and restrictions on movement and air travel over a new, more infectious Covid-19 strain.
Indian and Pakistani diplomatic missions in UAE have also confirmed the reports.
“The Ministry has the honour to convey the decision of the government of the United Arab Emirates to extend the validity of the foreigners who came to the UAE on tourist visas and whose visas and entry permits have expired before December 28, 2020. Their visas will now be valid till March 31, 2021, without any charge,” read the circular the Indian Embassy received, a copy of which Khaleej Times has seen.
The Embassy of Pakistan in Abu Dhabi also issued a press release which stated that the validity of all visit visas/ entry permits issued before December 28 has been extended till March 31.
‘Visas issued by us have been extended’
Inas Iqbal, an agent with Deira Travels stressed that the facility seems to have been extended only for Dubai visa holders for now. “The overstay fines travellers accumulated have also been waived off for visit visa holders whose visas were issued in Dubai.”
Mathew John, managing director, Sandset Travels said, “The facility does not seem to be available for visas issued by Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. Many who heard about this overstayed and ended up paying fines.” He advised passengers, “We strongly advise passengers to check the online system before deciding to stay back or planning their travel back home.”
Khaleej Times has reached out to the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) for clarification. However, a response is awaited.
An Indian passenger, whose visa expired on February 25, told Khaleej Times on the condition of anonymity, “My husband, child, and I were supposed leave on February 23. We came here to visit my father. Unfortunately, he contracted Covid-19 and so, we obviously cannot travel right now. When we checked with the travel agency, it showed that our visas had automatically been updated in the system.”
Ravi Agarwal, another Indian passenger, said, “I was supposed to travel last week, and my visa expires on March 3. However, I checked with my travel agent and my visit visa date has been extended to March 31. I came here to meet my relatives as my aunt is unwell. I plan to stay longer. The news came as a pleasant surprise and it has highly benefitted my family.”