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Lieutenant General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director General of GDRFA, overseeing the functioning of the call centre. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Reaching out to the younger generation, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai has launched a new call centre service to help children with information related to immigration procedures.

Lieutenant General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director-General, GDRFA, announced the launch of the service during a recent media interaction at GDRFA’s Innovation Centre that houses its 24/7 Amer call centre.

He said the new service is an extension of the children’s passport control counters at Dubai’s airport terminals. Aimed at enhancing the travel experience of young passengers, the counters have helped in raising awareness about the GDRFA’s services, he pointed out.

“We also noted that we have been receiving calls from many children seeking information about various services. Hence, we decided to dedicate a line exclusively for the children through our call centre,” said Lt Gen Al Marri.

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The staff at the call centre have been specially trained to handle children's calls. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

How kids can call

The toll free number of the Amer call centre is 8005111 (within the UAE) and +97143139999 (from outside the UAE). The line dedicated to children is accessible by pressing number 3 (for those selecting English language) and number 4 (for those selecting Arabic).

“Oh, dear children! this option is exclusively for you. If you have any enquiries, please press 3,” the message in a child’s voice greeted us when Gulf News rang up the call centre and opted for English.

The call was then answered by a call centre executive who explained that those handling the kids’ line have been trained to answer young callers.

Enquiries and suggestions

Lieutenant Colonel Salem Mohammed Ali Sultan Bin Ali, director of Customer Happiness Department, said GDRFA decided to launch the service after receiving a feedback from the customers of the children’s passport counters that they need a number to call to have their questions answered. The service has been offered on trial since November 2023 and hundreds of calls from children have already been received, he said.

“Today’s kids are totally different from the older generations. We believe that the children today have more ideas and knowledge. We need to give them a chance to talk. We would like to welcome their ideas and suggestions also. We are happy to take their ideas even if they are small,” he said.

Children’s questions

Officials said young callers have contacted the call centre to enquire details about different types of services, ranging from information about their visa status to general details about visiting Dubai, especially when GDRFA’s summer offer allows minor children to accompany parents on free visas. The paperwork required for minor children to travel alone and the procedures for Emirati children to renew their passports are also among the topics enquired by the children.

Lt Col Bin Ali urged parents to refrain from calling the line on behalf of their children. “It is for the children to talk to us, not for parents to check about children’s visa status or other issues,” he clarified.

Lt Col Khalil Ibrahim Mohammed Abdul Rahim, head of Customer Wellbeing, said the service aims to ensure the wellbeing of the young customers. “It is a priority for us,” he said.

The official pointed out that the children’s passport control counters have helped children aged between seven to 12 understand the entire passenger journey through the airport. “Usually, kids are just playing around when their parents complete all the procedures in the airports. Now, we engage them and make them aware of the procedures and give them a special stamp. With the call centre service, we are now addressing their queries on calls too.”

Call Back Assist

The GDRFA has also unveiled the “‘Call Back Assist’ feature in its call centre.

If the customer care agents are busy when someone calls, he said, they can either wait or can leave a request to receive a call back from a GDRFA agent

“Once any agent becomes free, the system will automatically initiate the call back and connect you to that agent,” said Lt Col Abdul Rahim.

Rise in calls

Lt Gen Al Marri also revealed a rise in the number of calls, emails and other engagements from customers.

In 2023, the total engagement from the customers stood at over 1.6 million, whereas in 2022 it was over 1.3million.

Enquiries related to changes in visa rules, visa application status, summer family package offers and visa services related to events such as COP28 topped the list last year.

Officials said that all applicants can check their visa application status on GDRFA’s website. They can contact the call centre if their visas are not processed within 48 hours.

The immigration chief attributed the rise in number of enquiries to the population growth in Dubai and increased awareness about the Amer call centre services.

He said the video call service launched by the call centre has been immensely popular in addressing customers’ concerns from the comfort of their homes or workplaces and considerably cut down physical visits to Amer centres and GDRFA office.

Timings, languages

Around 50 employees work at the call centre in different shifts, with 10 of them working remotely. While the call centre functions round the clock, the video call service - primarily designed for completing transaction procedures and operated by GDRFA officers - is available only from 7.30am to 6pm. The video call service is provided in Arabic and English, whereas the call centre employees can handle calls in multiple languages including Arabic, English, Urdu/Hindi, Tagalog, Farsi, Russian and Malayalam, officials said.

The response time of the IVR (interactive voice response) system is within three to seven seconds, they said, noting that the caller will not hear a continuous ringing tone.

The call waiting time during off peak hours is maximum one minute but it could go up to five minutes during peak time, which is usually between 11am and 2pm.

Most of the calls do not go beyond three minutes, within which the questions are answered or escalated, they added.

At a glance

GDRFA Amer Call Centre

8005111 (inside the UAE)

+97143139999 (outside the UAE).

New children’s line: Option 3 in English, 4 in Arabic

Age group of children targeted: 7 to 12 years