Dubai: Indians, who have been issued new entry permits to the UAE, are finding it difficult to fly as they are unable to get special approval meant for UAE residents returning from India.
As per the COVID-19 travel regulations, UAE residents with valid visas returning from India must have special permit from either the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) or the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA).
However, Indians, who secured new entry permits for employment and residence visa from the first week of July, are unable to get these approvals and hence in a fix about their flights to the UAE.
Speaking to Gulf News, some of them said airlines are asking for ICA/GDRFA approval while they have been told verbally by UAE authorities that they do not require those special permits meant for UAE residents with their visas stamped on the passports.
Affected Indians have requested the authorities to make official announcement exempting them from the GDRFA/ICA approvals to travel so that the rule is clear to airlines.
“There are more than 250 people who are stuck because of this. They have new work permits and entry permits. They are unable to return without GDRFA, ICA approvals,” said Aamarr Prakash, whose mother in Pune is among the affected Indians.
Majority of the new visa permit holders are from Dubai and others are mainly from Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Most of them are people whose entry permits issued before March 1 got auto-cancelled due to the COVID-19 regulations.
Prakash said some of the permit holders had been told by UAE authorities that those with newly issued entry permits for work visas and residency do not require special approvals from GDRFA or ICA.
“However, airlines are asking for this permission. They are saying that they have got information only to allow people with GDRFA or ICA permit. If we are eligible for that, someone has to tell us how we can get it. If we are exempted from this rule, the airlines need to be told about it,” he said.
Nancy Sudheer, who got new entry permits issued for her daughters studying in Kerala, said she had got confirmation from the GDRFA, Amer Centre and a travel agency that there is no need for special approval for the holders of recently issued entry permits.
She said she had approached them for a clarification only after her attempts to get GDRFA approval failed.
“They system was showing the message “profile not found. That is because the permit is meant for those who have their visas stamped in their passports,” said Sudheer.
“We were so upset after their first entry permits got auto-cancelled. They are supposed to fly back on Wednesday. I cannot sleep thinking if they will be barred from boarding due to this permit issue.”
Varun Dua, who got new entry permits for his wife and son in Mumbai, said: “This bilateral agreement for special flights has barred this group of people who hold new visas but have their families here. The authorities need to make it clear that they are also eligible to fly as the UAE government has issued entry permits for them.”
Meanwhile, some children managed to fly to Dubai from Delhi on an Emirates flight on Monday.
Apparently, the Emirates staff checked with their colleagues in Dubai and allowed the children with the new entry permits to board, the group members said.
Old permits not reopened
Meanwhile, some people whose previous entry permits were cancelled automatically, said old permits are not reopened yet.
Pooja Bathija, whose triplets were supposed to fly back from Coimbatore in March, said she is frustrated after she could not get them back even on their 13th birthday earlier this month.
“Every day we go to bed with the hope to see the children here the next morning. We can’t get the old entry permits that got auto-cancelled reopened. I am still waiting after applying for new visa for them,” said Bathija.
Aiswarya Prince, whose 11-year-old twin sons Vaibhav and Abhinav, who were supposed to fly on March 18 could not board their flight as their entry permits were cancelled abruptly. “I hope the authorities will change the status of their old permits from ‘cancelled’ to ‘approved’ in the system and allow them to fly,” she said.
Gulf News could not get immediate comments from the authorities related to the concerns raised by new entry permit holders and those requesting for reopening the auto-cancelled entry premits.