Dubai: The UAE has cancelled all types of new visas issued prior to March 17 and holders of these visas will not be allowed to enter the country, Gulf News can reveal.
According to a March 18 notification issued by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs, which has been communicated to airlines by Dubai Airports’ Airport Operations Control Centre, “Pre-issued UAE visas (all types) are cancelled and they [passengers with these visas] cannot apply for new visas until further notice”.
“This is effective from March 17, 2020. All passengers holding this visa type should not be allowed to board flights as they will not be allowed to enter the country,” states the notification, a copy of which is available with Gulf News.
Quarantine for returning residents
The notification further states that residents travelling back to the UAE need to be notified that they will be quarantined for a duration of two weeks once they arrive.
“Therefore, kindly notify them to ensure that all passengers understand the rules and regulations,” the notification said.
“Travel agencies and ticket sales centres need to be notified to ensure that they notify customers prior to their travel bookings.”
The airlines have also been asked to ensure documentation, operations and tasks to all strategic partners in minutes of meetings and ensure they proceed with the rules and regulations to fulfil the objectives defined.
Airline officials said they are now implementing the new directives.
However, travel agents said visa suspension rules have not impacted those renewing, extending or amending the status of visas while being inside the country.
Sources told Gulf News that the UAE government had briefed diplomatic missions in the country about the move in an online briefing held on Tuesday. They were also assured that refunding would be issued to the applicants whose visas have been auto-cancelled. However, Gulf News could not get an immediate comment on this from the federal and local authorities concerned.
Passengers caught unawares
Meanwhile, sources told Gulf News that several passengers with various types of new visas, who have landed in the UAE since Tuesday, were initially barred from entering the country.
While some were sent back to their countries, others gained entry after several hours, sources said.
A travel industry source said several passengers, who were barred entry at Dubai International Airport on Tuesday afternoon, were allowed to leave the airport later at night.
“Officials decided to approve their entry around 10.30pm. I think that decision was taken considering the fact that they are already here. But I don’t think anyone else would be allowed to fly in like that now onwards as airlines have been strictly told not board new visa holders on UAE flights,” he said.
Similarly, a group of Indians with visit/tourist visas, that landed in Abu Dhabi from Kochi in Kerala, on Wednesday morning was initially asked to fly back home.
“A few of them returned after rescheduling their flight. However, around 20 people who were issued boarding passes to fly back were finally allowed entry. They were brought back from the boarding gate,” said an Indian resident in Dubai, whose neighbour and son were among the group of visitors.
Videos from Kerala in India showed airline officials explaining to new visa holders flying to the UAE that they would not be allowed to fly.
Several people shared screen shots showing the status of approved visas as “cancelled before entry”.
Dubai resident M. Ghani said his colleague’s mother, who is supposed to fly in on March 30, is now unable to come even though her visa was issued before the suspension of new visas on March 17.
“She is staying all alone. All her four children are here. That is why they wanted to bring her here during this crisis. They had taken the visa through a travel agent. But now the immigration system shows it is auto-cancelled.”
He said the family wants to know if the cancellation of approved visas would be revoked anytime soon and if not, whether people like them would be refunded.
“We hope that it is a temporary measure and people whose visas are automatically cancelled before their arrival would still be able to come after this crisis,” he said.