The Dubai Immigration Department used to have a reputation for being fair in every situation. Sadly, in these Covid-19 times, it does not seem to be the case. In this blog, I am going to put before you a case of a young man who went to Dubai with many dreams. Covid-19 destroyed his job and his dreams. This is a true story. To protect his identity, I am going to call him Mr. X.
Covid-19 affects jobs in Dubai
During the closing days of March 2020, the Coronavirus was ramping up around the world. The numbers were rapidly rising. Mr. X who had taken up a teaching position in Dubai only in August 2019 after giving up a decent job in his own country, was asked to take an immediate salary cut of 50%. He had to continue teaching online (this is perfectly understandable); but in these Covid times, he also had to go to homes of students to teach as well. With the huge cut in salary, he could not afford additional transportation costs in going to the homes of students. The only option he had left, was to resign from his position. It may be noted that the educational institution he was working for, completely closed down after a few weeks. He would have been jobless anyway.
Jobless due to Covid-19
His local sponsor in Dubai cancelled his Residence visa straight away: ostensibly, to save on their own Medical Insurance costs. You will know that you cannot work in the United Arab Emirates without a company or organisation sponsoring you. The local sponsor left him without any coverage during the pandemic. Talk about care and consideration.
Fast forward to October 2020. Mr X had been without a job for over 6 months. He had to contend with a Landlord who even though had reduced the rent of his apartment by 50%, had told him he needed to raise the rent back to pre-Covid levels in October. Mr. X had had no income for six months and was eking out a meagre living by teaching online. He could not manage with the small savings he had, and had to borrow money to live.
Return to Home Country
He had been requesting his erstwhile employer to provide him with the contractual ticket to enable him to return to his country. Unfortunately the airspace to his own country was closed to commercial traffic, and airlines were not operating directly into the country. In September, his country announced they were opening to international flights. The first flight that Mr X was offered a ticket on, was on 8th October 2020.
The Dubai Immigration Conundrum
This is where, Dubai Immigration enters the scene. He had been checking to see how his stay in the UAE with a cancelled visa, would be treated. There was no clear indication. No one knew for sure. There were no clear official announcements. The official line till recently had been that people who had lost their jobs would be allowed to stay without any penalty whatsoever. September arrived. The situation become muddied. The Immigration department website indicated to Mr. X that there were no penalties involved; but when he called the Dubai Immigration Call Centre, he was told he had a fine that had to be paid. At that stage, the fine was about US$ 500.
A few day before 8th October, Mr. X went to the Immigration Office at Dubai International Airport to meet office face to face with an Immigration Officer, to have the entire matter clarified. He was told he had a fine of US$ 650 and the amount just had to be paid. He tried to reason with the Officer; but was told nothing could be done. It was not the Officer’s concern that International airspaces were closed, it was not his concern that Mr. X had no job or income. His job was to collect the penalty. Logic and reasoning went out of the window. This dear Reader, is the grim reality of working in the modern city of Dubai that boasts of high technology, the greatest facilities on earth and consideration for expatriates who work in the Emirate. The officer quite bluntly told him, “We don’t care where you go, you just have to leave the country within the specified grace period.” Can anyone please explain to the Government of Dubai where would a jobless person, whose own country had closed its airspace, go without any money in his pocket. Which country would let him in?
The next day, Mr. X was told by certain reliable sources that it would be possible to contact an Al Amer Centre and appeal to have the penalty reduced. He contacted the one close to JLT. He was asked to get a letter from his Sponsor to enable him to file the reduction appeal (bureaucracy in the face of human misery). He contacted his Sponsor. In the meantime, he also contacted four other Al Amer Centres, all of them told him that he could only appeal for reduction, if his fine was over AED 4000. The possibility of a reduction was a dead end.
To cut the story short, he finally left Dubai on 8th October 2020. He was only able to pay his final penalty of US$ 735 because one of his students kindly gave him some money in advance, in lieu of future online lessons.
Let me conclude with a few open questions to the Government of Dubai. What good is all the facilities of a modern city with all its wealth, if you have no consideration for people in a tough spot for no fault of their own? Mr X had his Residence Visa cancelled because his Sponsor did not want to continue paying for his medical Insurance. He was left with no health care. What does the Government of Dubai do with such unscrupulous employers? Mr X’s country had closed its airspace due to the Covid situation. There was no way he could depart for his country from Dubai. He just had to stay and find work however he could, to try and pay his bills. Dubai Immigration made it worse for him by levying a penalty at departure. Is that human consideration at a time so disastrous as that of Covid-19? Was your action fair, Dubai Immigration?
I rest my case.
© 2020 Mano Chandra Dhas
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Frequently Asked Questions on UAE Visas
What is a United Arab Emirates Residence Visa?
The United Arab Residence Visa is one that permits the holder of the visa to live in the UAE. Additionally, a Work Permit will be required to work in the UAE.
How do you obtain a United Arab Emirates Residence Visa?
A person will need a Local Sponsor who is usually a Company registered and legally operating out of the United Arab Emirates, or the head of the family who has the salary status to sponsor members of his/her family. Some categories of property ownership also become eligible for a Residence Visa.
Can you work in the United Arab Emirates with a Visitor’s Visa?
It is forbidden by local law to work with a Visitor’s Visa. No employer will also risk hiring a visitor with such a visa.
Does Dubai Immigration levy a fine if a person with a cancelled Residence Visa has overstayed the grace period allowed by law?
Dubai Immigration is currently levying a fine on those who have overstayed the grace period resulting from a cancelled Residence visa, even in the Covid-19 situation when airspaces to traveller countries are closed.
What is the fine payable for overstays?
The current rate of fine for overstays in the Emirate of Dubai is AED 125 for the first day and AED 25 for each additional day. The rate of the fine is doubled after a period of 6 months.