Dubai: Amnesty-seekers looking to rectify their visa status and return to work in the UAE can take a leaf out of the experiences of Manian Anil Kumar who availed of amnesty in 1996 and returned a year later to the emirates.
The veteran painter by trade advises those staring down an uncertain future to take advantage of amnesty, regularise status, be reunited with loved ones and return fearlessly on a fresh job visa just as he had done.
Indian expat Kumar, 51, who hails from a village in Thiruvananthapuram district first came to the UAE in 1989 at the age of 17.
Kumar with his wife Srilatha and two sons Adul and Akhil.
“I could have continued to overstay but I availed of the amnesty announced in 1996 after more than one-and-a-half years of illegal stay. I was 22 years then and it was important for me to correct my status to plan my future. Today, I have a family back home, a wife and two sons and have been able to save money to buy a modest home. I would not have been able to do all this if I had chosen to stay illegally in the UAE,” explained Kumar.
Kumar had not completed his high school when he first arrived in the UAE in 1989.
“I had only cleared Grade 8 and here I was working on the private visa of my Emirati sponsor from Umm Al Quwain. Those days, laws were not too rigid and I freelanced as a painter, plumber and construction man in various projects. Life was tough, we had no air-conditioning in our quarters and I could barely earn Dh30 after slogging the whole day,” recalled Kumar.
Kumar then moved to join a construction company in 1992 in Sharjah.
“I was married by then and needed a more stable income and earned around Dh550 per month. It was important to me as I needed to support my family back home.”
He was hired on a driver’s visa for the next three years but when his driving licence expired, he was unable to renew his visa and continued to stay illegally.
“It was a harrowing time,” he recalls. “I was living in fear constantly on being found out. If I felt ill, I had to manage on my own as I could not risk going to a clinic.”
Finally, when amnesty was announced in 1996, Kumar took advantage of it and was able to return to Kerala.
“I was so happy to be reunited with my wife and sons. He was handed a six-month ban and so after a year’s wait to get a job, Kumar returned to Sharjah on a painter’s visa in 1997 and has since then been doing this job.
“I am glad I took the right decision then. Those days I was alone and life was tough as I had no emotional or physical support from my family members. I was pretty much on my own and very lonely. Today, my brothers have joined me here and we have each other’s backing.”
Today, Kumar is employed on a monthly salary of Dh1,600 and is able to send money back for the schooling of his two sons.
“I have no savings now, but earlier when I was younger, I managed to take a loan and build a modest home, nothing fancy ... but my family has a home. Over the years, I have managed to pay off the loan and am free of that liability. My older son is 22 and younger one is 17. I am hoping the boys, who have been reluctant to lend me a helping hand, will one day come here and earn for the family and give me respite,” he said.
Kumar suffers from some kidney issues and hopes to continue working for a few more years before he retires and returns to Kerala for good.
“I feel whenever I have to return, one must do it at one’s own terms and be happy. I can resign and go back home whenever I want, there is no fear now and I would advise people to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”