Abu Dhabi: More than 10,000 illegal residents have already availed of the UAE’s visa amnesty and left the country, according to the Ministry of Interior (MoI).

The visa amnesty period, which began on December 4 last year, has already seen more than 25,000 applications from illegal residents from 106 countries.

Those who have overstayed in the country should visit their nearest residency department and take advantage of the amnesty period, urged Brigadier General Dr Abdullah Ali Bin Sahoo, Director of the General Directorate for Residency and Foreign Affairs in Sharjah, and head of the media committee for amnesty operations. The period is expected to end in the first week of February.

The official also called on residents to spread awareness about the ongoing amnesty period to all illegal immigrants.

The 60-day amnesty programme allows visa violators to come forward and either regularise their visas, or leave the country without penalties. In general, overstayers in the UAE after the expiry of a residence visa are fined Dh25 per day. To regularise visas, immigrants must pay all the daily fines accrued as a result of overstaying.

The amnesty only applies to immigrants who have overstayed their residency visas. MoI officials earlier stressed that infiltrators into the UAE will still be treated as criminals.

This is the fourth amnesty which has been made available in the UAE. In 1996, about 200,000 illegal residents left the country under a six-month long amnesty. During the second amnesty which ran for four months in 2002, around 300,000 illegal immigrants left the UAE.

Nearly 342,000 illegal immigrants took advantage of the last amnesty, declared in 2007, by either legalising their visas or choosing to leave the UAE after settling their dues

Dr Sahoo said that illegal residents must avail themselves of this opportunity as this will probably be the last amnesty for illegal residents.

“The two-month amnesty period will not be extended and there will be no other amnesty for illegals any more,” he said.

Dr Sahoo said that the media and residents must help in alerting illegal residents on the current amnesty period and urge them to make use of it.

“We are giving a chance for illegal residents to leave the country without any liability despite the fact they have broken the residency law,” he said.

Those who overstay on tourist visa have to pay Dh100 per day.

According to Ministry of Interior officials there has been a slowdown in the number of people applying for the amnesty at all amnesty centres across the country.

“We are expecting the rush to be at the last days of the amnesty,” the official said.