Al Hamriyah Free Zone Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Sharjah: A large number of applicants have complained that they have been facing delays for more than a month in processing their visas at Al Hamriyah Free Zone Authority in Sharjah.

Authorities concerned say that the visa processing system has been facing technical glitches leading to a huge backlog of visa applications under process.

The issue came to light after a number of people contacted Gulf News to raise this issue with some of them unable to even travel or change their jobs due to delays in processing visa applications. Some of them said that they were in the process of changing jobs but feared losing new opportunities due to the delays at Al Hamriyah Free Zone office of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs.

One of the affected Indian employees, S.A., told Gulf News that he applied for his employment visa cancellation about a month ago on an urgent basis, but it was still not done. “I go to their office almost every day but come back disappointed with the same reply — ‘system is not working’,” he said.

He appealed to officials concerned to find a solution to the problem at the earliest. “I have already cancelled visas for my family but now am facing fines due to this issue. No one is listening to us,” he complained. He said that hundreds of people are facing similar issues and businesses were badly affected as well.

Faris Al Timimi, another affected worker at the free zone, said: “I would like to raise the issue to bring it to the notice of higher authorities. Now, I have to pay fine for their faulty system. We are also suffering because there is no solution in sight.”

Al Timimi said that he had lost out on a job opportunity because of the delay in the cancellation of his visa at the free zone. He said that he had submitted the visa cancellation application in the middle of December but it was still pending.

When contacted, the staff at Al Hamriah Free Zone said that they are unable to process applications due to technical issues, which they had already raised with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Sharjah (GDRFA).

A top official at GDRFA Sharjah told Gulf News that they were working to fix the problem but it could take some time.

He said the problem started due to a system change from online to e-channel and added that the company responsible for the transition was working to fix the problem.