Dubai residents and tourists enjoy evening strolls and great food at the The Walk in JBR. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News Archives

Dubai:  As the recently approved visa extensions started taking into effect this week, expatriates in the UAE have expressed delight, citing that jobseekers – aside from tourists and women-- will stand to benefit the most from the new policy reforms.

Changes to the visa regulations in the country were rolled out on Sunday, October 21, and these include the extension of entry permits for tourists and visas for widowed and divorced women. These are part of the three Cabinet decrees that seek to strengthen the position of the UAE as one of the top destinations in the world.

Under the new policy, visit visa holders can get a 30-day extension without leaving the country at a cost of Dh600. This option can be availed of in two occasions, costing a visitor a total of Dh1,200 for a 60-day hassle-free stay in the UAE.

Beneficial for jobseekers

Some jobseekers interviewed by Gulf News have welcomed the new policy changes, citing that they can now conveniently extend their stay in the UAE without having to worry about exiting the country just to renew a visit visa, thus giving them more time to focus on their job search.

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Expatriates who are on the lookout for employment opportunities would  normally get a three-month tourist visa and in cases where their permits have expired and they have yet to find any suitable job offer, they take a short trip to a neighbouring country  in order to get a new entry  permit in the UAE.

This option, commonly known as a “visa run,” would entail not just visa fees, but airfare expenses and in some cases, hotel and other incidental costs, although some travel agencies have promised to offer visa and flight packages at a much cheaper rate.

“I think it can help reduce the expenses for us who are looking for a job and what’s more important is that it’s hassle-free. I just wish they extend it to three months instead of just one month, so we have more time to find a job,” said Susan, an expatriate from the Philippines.

“One month is not enough to find work. But if there’s no need to exit, I think that’s okay,” she added. Susan has recently been out of job and is looking for a new employer.

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Michael Gilmore, managing partner of headhunting firm Jordan Forde, said the latest visa policy is “extremely beneficial” for expatriates who are looking for jobs.

“The Dh600 [fee] would be an investment if you are looking for a job in the UAE and very convenient for those involved in the stressful job hunt,” Gilmore told Gulf News.

Mahesh Dhakan from India, a small business owner based in Dubai, noted that there is often  an inconvenience associated with visa extensions for foreigners , as it requires them to leave the country first before getting a new entry permit.

“This move is going to help us and make the process easy and more convenient. It will allow more flexibility in dealing with renewals and extensions of visit visas, especially for jobseekers. The extension will give them more time to look for the right job and remuneration,” Dhakan added.

Saving time, expenses

The new visa policy changes are being implemented by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA). They don’t just provide visa extensions for visitors, but also for widowed and divorced women and their dependents, who will now get one-year residency visa extension without the need for a sponsor.

Brigadier Saeed Rakan Al Rashidi, acting director general for foreigners affairs and ports at ICA had said earlier that the policy changes will reduce the need for companies to recruit employees from outside the UAE, thus saving time  and expenses for hiring additional or new staff. It also grants “longer grace period” for jobseekers to “find the suitable opportunities.”

“The decrees enhance labour market by providing chances for various establishments to utilize the competencies existed in the state and reduce the need for recruiting labour from outside the state.”

Wendy Shaw, a British expatriate, said the 30-day extension “may be considered as a blessing for those wanting to avoid the hassle and inconvenience involved with having to exit and return.”

“And the cost is reasonable for those who value their time. I am sure many visiting families and jobseekers will see the benefit and use this option rather than book a short flight for the purpose of renewing their visa,” Shaw added.

Bernard Aquino, another Dubai-based expat from the Philippines, noted that jobseekers who want more time to choose suitable employment will benefit the most from the new visa policy. “The visa extension will help them look for a job with better offer rather than settling for a low salary or take up jobs that are way below their qualifications”

However, some expats said that visa run packages offered by travel agencies would be a more budget-friendly option for those who don’t mind taking a short trip to a neighbouring country.

Such offers, which only require a visitor to fly from a UAE airport to another airport in neighbouring states like Oman, can cost Dh1,500, and in return, a three-month tourist visa can be secured.

“Some travel agents offer a package for a three-month tourist visa, plus flights to exit UAE, that costs Dh1,500. Whereas, if I extend my visa twice for Dh600 each and I get one month each time, the total expenses for a two-month extension would be Dh1,200,” said one jobseeker in Dubai.

Hence, Gilmore said, the new visa extension policy for visitors will be particularly beneficial for a certain “niche” of foreigners in the UAE.

“There will be a particular niche of individuals or jobseekers that will be able to afford the renewal of Dh600. In general, I understand that the UAE is trying to retain families and jobseekers for an extended period of time, but the difference between the Oman border run fee and the new renewal fee is significant,” noted Gilmore.