Monday, June 9, 2008

Visitors face Dh500 fee in visa overhaul

Visitors face Dh500 fee in visa overhaul
Haneen Dajani and Meera al Sayegh for THE NATIONAL

Last Updated: June 08. 2008 11:18PM UAE / June 8. 2008 7:18PM GMT
Miriam Najam, an immigration officer, deals with people at passport control, in the departures section of Dubai International Airport. Randi Sokoloff / The National
Many visitors will have to pay at least Dh500 (US$136) to enter the UAE under an overhaul of the visa system announced yesterday that is also intended to enable authorities to keep better track of them.

Four extra categories of visas will be added when the changes come into force on August 1, and a series of charges will be levied for some types of stays, including a Dh500 fee for a 30-day visitor’s visa.

Major Gen Mohammed al Khaili, the director general of the Naturalisation and Residence Department, also outlined several amendments to the current visa rules, following a decision by General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Interior Minister.

“As the country is constantly growing and developing, there are more reasons for people to visit, therefore it is necessary to develop the current visa system to match the various types of visits,” said Major Gen Khalili.

The shake-up will create another layer of security at the country’s borders, with more detailed information sought on exactly why each visitor is here.

The new categories include a study visa, a medical visa for those obtaining treatment, an “exhibition and conference” visa and one for guests of the Government.

Other amendments include creating two types of visit visas – short-term and long-term – that will allow holders to stay for 30 days and 90 days, respectively.

At Dh1,000, the cost of the 90-day visa will be double that for a 30-day visit and the fees will apply to people visiting the country to stay with friends or relatives. The 30-day visa can be renewed for a further 30 days, at a cost of Dh500 per person.

For tourists who book into hotels or who book holidays through a registered tour operator or agency, the visit visa will not be required. Instead, they must carry a tourist visa, costing Dh100, which can be issued through the hotel or agency. The tourist company will have to pay Dh75,000 to the Government when opening the agency and a refundable Dh1,000 for every visa for tourists from certain countries.

The company must be able to provide a full itinerary for the traveller for their stay. The visa requirements, which also stipulate that an individual must have health insurance valid for the period of his stay, will apply to all nationalities.

An official, who asked not to be named, said the proposed changes followed an investigation by the Ministry of Interior into visa violations that showed that many visitors misunderstood the conditions.

“The study concluded that narrower categories would make the entry system easier to navigate,” said the official. “The new categories are also intended to curb abuse of visit visas, which are used by many job-seekers to get into the country and then search for employment.”

The need for a medical visa had been identified, he said, “because many violators were using medical treatment as an excuse for overstaying their deadline”. The new visas would make it easier for visitors, said Col Darwish al Meheri, manager of the Department of Entry and Residency Permits.

“For instance, there was no category for students who come to the UAE for short-term courses, such as summer courses,” he said. “Under the new system, such visas could be issued by accredited research and educational facilities.”

A 90-day medical treatment permit will cost Dh1,000 and could be renewed for 90 days at a cost of Dh500. A student visa for short-term courses will be valid for 60 days at a cost of Dh1,000 and could be renewed twice for the same period at a cost of Dh500.

In addition, a visa to attend a conference or exhibition for a period of 30 days from date of entry could be issued at a cost of Dh100, in co-ordination with the event organiser. Applicants will pay a refundable Dh1,000 deposit, to ensure they leave on time. The visa issued by the Government for special guests has no time limit or fee.

Under the current system, foreigners can obtain a “multiple-visit visa” valid for six months, allowing 30-day visits, at a cost of Dh1,000. Under the new system each visit will be limited to 14 days, at a cost of Dh2,000.

A 96-hour transit visa will cost Dh100, used while passing through the country’s airports. The traveller must have a valid ticket for the next flight.

Gen Sheikh Saif bin Zayed promised Federal National Council officials last March that he would submit to the Cabinet new travel regulations for different visa types.

The council has asked the Ministry of Interior to tighten the procedures for issuing visitor visas amid fears that increasing numbers of criminals and beggars are entering the country.

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