Al Ain: From July 15 expatriates with UAE residence visas can enter Buraimi, the Omani border town, only through the Khatam Al Shukla border post, some 15km northeast of Al Ain.

The change is to stop illegal workers from entering or leaving the UAE, border officials said.

The road leading to Khatam Al Shukla checkpoint has recently been developed into a dual-carriage highway.

Emiratis and other GCC nationals should use Al Hili checkpoint to enter or exit the UAE. This checkpoint is currently being used by expatriate residents.

Those not living in the UAE can cross the border here, but have to pay a tax of Dh20, according to the head of the Department of Naturalisation and Residency, Colonel Nasser Al Minhali.

He said eight counters have been set up at the new checkpoint and more will be added during busy periods.

He said people using the new checkpoint will be asked to fill out a questionnaire on how the new measure is working.

Another checkpoint, Madeef, is currently being used by school buses ferrying students from Buraimi to Al Ain schools and back. Colonel Al Minhali said special arrangements will be made for school buses.

Col Al Minhali said the new measures will enhance security at Al Ain as smugglers and illegal immigrants have been taking advantage of the lax system at the border.

"The new arrangement will also help ease pressure on Al Hili checkpoint and enable non-GCC expatriates to use the less crowded checkpoint at Khatam Al Shukla," he said.

The Hili checkpoint is very crowded and there are long queues of cars at rush hours. Officers at the border said most GCC nationals working in Al Ain, live in Buraimi because of low rents.

Many expatriates have also moved to Buraimi and have obtained Omani residence visas to counter the exorbitant rental hikes in Al Ain.

A three-bedroom villa in Buraimi is available for Dh12,000, compared to Dh70,000 in Al Ain.

According to real estate industry sources, some 40,000 Al Ain residents had been living in Buraimi before previous restrictions forced them to leave.

Many Buraimi residents said a large number of people from Dubai have come to live there. They reportedly use the Hatta road to enter Buraimi. The Hatta-Oman road has no border restrictions.

This reporter visited the area and did not see any checkpoint even after travelling deep into Oman.

Sajjad Hussain, a Buraimi resident, said many of the shops and markets are also being taken over by Dubai businessmen and life has returned to the city.

Buraimi had practically become a ghost town soon after the exodus of UAE residents following earlier strict measures at the checkpoint.