Abdul Rasheed, sales person at Abrar Al Madeena Studio in Abu Dhabi, holds an entry permit which he printed at his office. Image Credit: Anwar Ahmad/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi/Ajman: UAE residency visa stickers, which are placed on passport pages, could be replaced by a new electronic system, the Ministry of Interior revealed on Saturday.

It said the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs had discussed the possibility during a meeting held in Ajman last week.

The proposal comes in line with Vision 2021 and is indicative of a general migration to smart digital services that reduce paperwork, time and effort. 

During the meeting in Ajman, officials reviewed a similar initiative currently taking place in Ajman, with the pilot phase proving to be a major success so far. Its results show a 50 per cent drop in time taken to apply for and receive a resident visa.

Meanwhile, the ministry has authorised typing centres in Abu Dhabi to print entry permits for the first time since the launch of the new smart visa system.

The smart visa system, launched on August 1, allows individuals, establishments and typing centres to obtain entry and residency permits digitally, without having to visit customer service centres.

A number of typing centres, which have obtained a dedicated user account for the service, showed Gulf News the permits during a recent visit to their offices.

Gulf News visited a number of typing centres in Abu Dhabi and found that many of them have started accessing the system.

Abdul Rasheed, a sales person at Abrar Al Madeena Studio on Airport Road, said, “Yes, we have started accessing the new visa system and now we can print [them] at our typing centre.”

He showed a new entry permit which he had printed at his office.

Over the last couple of weeks, we got the login name and password to access the system, he said. “We were trained for this,” he said adding, “We have paid Dh6,000 to get a login name and password.”

“Now we can print all kinds of entry and residence permits at our typing centre except for tourist visas, which can only be obtained through travel agencies,” said Rasheed.

The system, he said, is running smoothly and is user-friendly, and it takes less time. 

“If we submit [the applications] in the morning under the urgent category, it is processed the same day, while the regular applications are processed the next day.” But he hoped that with the passage of time, the processing time will be reduced.

Wajid Ali, owner of Al Khansa Typing and Photocopying centre in Abu Dhabi, said, “I have got the access and of course, this will help increase our business because everybody can’t register at home due to lack of documentations like Tawtheeq [municipality registered tenancy contract] and electricity and water bills.”

So such customers and their families would come to us for the service, and similarly farmers, domestic helps and drivers,” he said.

“Earlier, we were not able to print entry and family permits but now we can,” Ali added.

For Shakir Hussain of Al Tawakkal Typing, who registered recently for the service, the business is as usual.

Others typing centres are also willing to adopt the new system soon.

Hussain Salem, an Emirati owner of Jocker Typing and Photocopying centre in Abu Dhabi, said, “I am just learning about the new system and soon will apply for access. I have heard that it’s quick and smooth.”

Travel Agencies

Travel agencies, which are authorised to issue tourists visas, say the new system may impact up to 20 per cent of their business.

Tarun Soni, business development manager at Greenline Travel in Abu Dhabi, said, “It may impact the business up to 20 per cent as families will start printing tourist visas at their homes.”

As per the MoI rules, the individuals can apply visa for their immediate family members and blood relatives.

”If the system works smoothly, it may slightly impact the business but nevertheless, a large chunk of bachelors and families who wish to bring their families, friends and relatives on tourist visas, have to come to us,” said Manoj Venugopal, sales manager at Salem Travel Agency.

“Many bachelors don’t have Tawtheeq and electricity bills; in fact even many families do not have it, so they can’t register with the new visa system at home,” Venugopal said.