As the UAE economy flourishes, it continues to attract thousands of people every month from various parts of the globe who are looking for a foothold in the burgeoning job market.

One way to enter the emirates and assess the market is through a visit visa.

The visa is valid for 60 days but it can be extended for another 30 days, giving you three months' time. If after this period you still need to extend it, the only way is to go out of the country on the visa change flights.

Many of the thousands of passengers boarding flights out of the country every day from the various airports in the UAE, have only one purpose: land at a nearby airport and wait for a fax that shows that you now have a new visit visa. Those offered jobs also have to fly out of the country and change the visit visa to an employment visa.

Special flights

It is a whole new industry by itself, requiring special flights out of the country to destinations such as Muscat, Bahrain, and the nearby Iranian islands.

Air Arabia, for instance, has a separate office in Sharjah just for visa runs. A visa coordinator says there are two daily flights from Sharjah to Kish and 10 flights from Dubai. The airline also runs three flights weekly to Muscat.

Oman Air also has a separate representative just to look after visa run passengers. It has two flights from Dubai to Muscat every day. The ticket costs Dh590 including taxes. The passenger gets down at Muscat, waits in the transit lounge and takes the next flight back.

With one airline, passengers do not even have to get down. They just wait in the plane and take the return flight back to Dubai.


A Kish Airline representative said it is promoting the Iranian island as a tourist destination. It has purchased McDonnell Douglas aircraft for the popular visa runs. He said many African businessmen use these flights to extend their visas.

But such runs are laden with uncertainties. When Gulf News earlier visited Kish there were hundreds of expatriates waiting for their sponsors to send them faxes of their visas. Some had been waiting for months and were doing part-time jobs to sustain themselves.

The crash

When a Kish Airline plane crashed while returning to Sharjah in February 2004, the UAE changed its visa rules and allowed visitors to change their visas in the country itself, but at a cost.

According to a PRO of a company, you first pay Dh500 for the change in status; from a visit visa to an employment visa. Then another Dh500 for the residency visa.

Other way

The other way to enter the country is to get a hotel to sponsor your visit. But the transit visa will cost you Dh400 and is valid only for 15 days.

Mikdam believed visa change boat runs such as his will save huge sums of money for employers. "Imagine if you have hundreds of workers who need new visas," he said. His plans in the future include making runs to Khasab for tourists from the UAE.