The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued new regulations for visa licensing offices with effect from Wednesday. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: Embassies in the UAE are not allowed to deal with Visa Licensing Offices (VLOs) unless they are licensed by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the Abu Dhabi/Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

The "Visa Licensing Offices Regulation" under Federal Law No. 4/2010 will take its effect starting June 23rd 2011, offering VLO's a six month grace period (till January 24th 2012).

A joint decision enforced by a newly formed and dedicated committee from the MoFA and the chamber, has laid out regulations for VLO's to abide by in order to become licensed.

There are currently a total of four visa licensing offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, who have been formed to service embassies during their peek season. None of these offices are licensed, according to Jumaa Mubarak Al Junaibi, Undersecretary of the MoFA.

"When any of the embassy's are too pressured to handle their clients, especially during peek seasons, some of them would revert to any of the four VLO's, who's main task would be to issue a visa to a certain country in a timely manner.

"Unfortunately we discovered that some of those offices have been over-charging clients, or not issuing visas at all. When we received complaints about these issues from the public, we immediately decided to take action."

As part of the new law, VLOs must be located in environmentally friendly and clean areas, that are reachable and/or accessible for the public. Evident sign posts must also be available nearby the office to identify its exact location.

Visa issuance requires documentation and paperwork, which must be kept confidential by the VLO concerned.