New policy unlikely to affect visa flights
By Zoe Sinclair and Adel Arafah (Staff reporterS/KHALEEJ TIMES)3 July 2008
DUBAI — Airlines offering "visa run flights" to expatriates renewing their visit visas expect minimal impact after a change in the visa policy, officials said yesterday.
A raft of visa changes will take effect from August 1, with one policy to end the practice of "visa runs" where expatriates leave the UAE to a neighbouring country usually only for a matter of hours before returning and renewing their visit visa upon entry.
Dubai Department of Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) Director Major-General Mohammad Ahmad Al Marrihas said from August 1, Dubai's expatriates will have to remain outside the country for one month before returning on a visit visa.
This rule is already in effect in the other emirates in the UAE, according to Major-General Mohammed Salim bin Awaida Al Khaili, Director-General of the Naturalisation and Residency Department, Ministry of Interior.
He explained that a visitor who stayed the maximum of 90 days of the visit visa duration in the country should leave the country and he can only get a new visit visa after 30 days of the date of his departure. Kish Air, an Iranian airline which operates to the nearby Kish Island
about five times daily, averages about 350 visa run passengers of its total 500 passengers, according to an official.
However, the official said the airline had recently reduced flights to Kish Island and other GCC countries in the climate of high fuel prices and instead increased domestic flights. "Some business will affect us but we'll make it up on other routes," he said.
"Kish supports the rules and regulations of Dubai and we have our own business plan."
Oman Air offers a special visa run package on its five times daily flights between Dubai and Muscat, attracting an estimated 30 to 40 per cent of its business, according to an airline official.
"We are not aware of the visa change and as far as we are concerned, as long as required, we will continue. It's part of our business," an official said. However, he said such a policy would not have a dramatic effect on the airline.
"If it becomes effective, it would have a marginal effect. It's not our core business. We have labourers travelling on leave, tourism, business travel, family and friends visiting the region and holiday packages."
Any complaints about visa processing can be submitted to the Naturalisation and Residency Directorate General in Abu Dhabi which would investigate.