Dubai: Amnesty seekers with police or civil cases due to bounced cheques or loan defaults will have to clear their cases first before they can avail of the leniency that will begin in the UAE this week, a lawyer said.
The three-month amnesty in the UAE will kick off on August 1, giving illegal residents a chance to leave the country without having to pay their overstay fines or getting an entry ban. Those who want to stay back may also rectify their status by opting for self-sponsorship or getting a new sponsor.
The amnesty, however, is not a blanket pardon in the UAE.
During the last amnesty declared in the country in 2012, a top immigration official said illegal foreigners were granted amnesty and allowed to leave the country so long as they did not have any pending cases. “Illegal foreigners will be issued outpasses after any pending cases or dues are settled,” said the official.
Attorney Barney Almazar, director of Gulf Law, said the amnesty this year is similar.
“Amnesty in the UAE relates to pardoning people who have violated immigration rules such as overstaying or absconding. It’s anything related to immigration rules. As part of the pardon, overstay fines are waived by the government,” Almazar told Gulf News.
“If you have a police case due to a bounced cheque or if you have a travel ban because of a civil case, the amnesty will not apply unless the cases are cleared. The government will not answer for your private obligations or debt,” he said.
Almazar, who helps give legal advice and assists Filipinos in the UAE, said residents can look for options to pay off their police fines or loans. They can solicit help from family members back home, liquidate assets or borrow money from lending institutions there to pay off their debts.
Almazar said one of his clients did exactly this in 2012 and managed to secure a 400,000-peso (Dh30,000) personal loan in the Philippines to clear his name and avail of the amnesty declared then.
Borrowing from major Philippine banks will be difficult as the first criterion for loan approval is the borrower’s proof of employment to establish his capacity to pay back the loan, a banker told Gulf News.
The next option is to look for institutions that lend with more lenient criteria. Manuel Uy, managing director of Amalgated Lending, is currently in talks with Almazar’s office to be able to extend loans to Filipinos in need in the UAE so they can avail of the amnesty.
“Any Filipino can borrow from us so long as they pass the criteria. If they have a collateral, they’re 80 per cent approved. Even if they are Filipinos in financial distress in the UAE who can no longer avail of any loan consolidation there, we’re willing to accommodate them if vetted by attorney Almazar’s office,” Uy told Gulf News in a phone interview from Manila.
Almazar said amnesty seekers should settle their loans as early as now or during the first few weeks of the amnesty so they can take advantage of the amnesty. “It is better if they settle their financial obligations now if they have the money. Ultimately, you will have to pay what you owe anyway. There is no point waiting it out; your overstay fines will just accumulate,” he said.
Step-by-step guide on clearing cases
If you want to avail of the amnesty but you have a police case due to a loan default or bounced cheque, do this:
1) Communicate with your bank and request for available settlement options of your debt. Ask the minimum settlement amount for one-time payment in black and white or choose the option that you can best stick to.
2) Once a settlement agreement is sent to you, complete with the bank’s letterhead etc, proceed with the payment according to the terms indicated in the settlement agreement. Make sure the settlement letter includes a provision where the bank will withdraw the case against you after completion of payment.
3) Once the debt is settled, request a clearance letter from the bank. Show this clearance letter to the bank’s lawyer and secure a release letter.
4) If you have a police case, show the release letter from the bank’s lawyer to the police as proof that they have cancelled the case. The police officer can clear the case in the system in front of you.
Your queries answered
How long will the whole process take?
The time frame depends on the availability of funds. If you have the money and can settle with the bank quickly, then the whole process can be completed relatively in three days.
Is deleting my name from the police case files or system enough?
Generally, this is enough. But for your peace of mind, you can also request for a police clearance for a fee.
What if I have a travel ban due to a civil case?
The same rule applies. Settle the case so you can clear your name and apply for amnesty.
Source: Essential OFW Guide to UAE by attorney Barney Almazar