Dubai: A new visa condition set by the Indian government to allow international travel of Indians stranded back home is compounding the woes of several UAE residents desperately wishing to return to their host country.
In an office memorandum issued on June 1, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released a revised Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) for movement of persons stranded in India who wish to travel abroad.
The memorandum, a copy of which has been obtained by Gulf News, stipulates certain conditions to allow Indians to fly out including a minimum validity of three months on their visas, in the case of UAE residents.
“Only those persons shall be allowed to travel to the destination countries, who are citizens of that country; who have a green card of OCI card; Indian nationals who are holding visa of that country with a minimum residual validity of three months,” the SOP stated.
“In case an Indian national is having confirmed offer of employment/internship/admission in education institutions, he or she can be allowed with visa of that country with a minimum residual validity of one month,” it added.
Several UAE residents stranded in India told Gulf News that the minimum visa validity period set by India is compounding their struggle to return to the UAE even as the country had already announced that all visas expiring after March 1 will be considered valid till the end of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When contacted, Consul General of India in Dubai Vipul confirmed that the Indian missions in the UAE had received the new order.
“We have seen the notification and we will be talking to New Delhi on how this will be implemented in the current scenario,” he told Gulf News.
If the policy is not changed immediately, stranded residents, who cannot meet the visa validity rule, said they are afraid that airlines and immigration officials will not allow them to return to the UAE even after they receiving the approval for their application to return.
Stranded residents express concerns
Rohit Mahajan, 48, has been separated from his wife Shiwali, 42, daughter Kuhu, 16 and son Kush, 11 since March 8. Adding to the woes, his UAE residence visa has expired on May 5. “Online I can see it has been extended until end of the year. With the new Indian rule in place – I am not sure now when I can travel. I hope the UAE and Indian governments work together to ensure those with expired visas are allowed to travel as we are currently in the middle of an exceptional scenario.”
Mahajan said: “I came to India due to an emergency situation with my family on March 8. My father was in a critical condition and was admitted in an ICU. Later, he passed away on March 10. My family could not even join the funeral session due to travel restrictions. My wife is finding it difficult to manage on her own. I need to return to UAE.”
Mohammad Hassan Bengre from Karnataka is in a major fix. While his visa, and that of his wife Sheikh Zamzam and elder daughter Khadeeja Zoha are valid, that of his two-year-old son Mohammad Hanzalah is expiring on June 20.
“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if my son will be allowed to travel back to the UAE. We need more clarity,” said Hassan adding that his daughter Khadeeja has also taken to Twitter to express her anxiousness to return to the UAE.
Bengre has one more issue at hand. His employer has been asking him to return asap. “I cannot stay in India forever. I have a job in Dubai and my presence is required.”
He said: As per the UAE law, all expired visas have been extended till end of the year. Hopefully the Indian government will see this.”
Need urgent solution
Ramakrishna Salunke, an optometrist working for a private hospital in Abu Dhabi, is also worried sick about his situation and that of his family. “My wife and one-year-old son have been stuck in India for three months. My wife who works as HR officer with another hospital Abu Dhabi is also concerned with the long wait we are having to face to return home to UAE. “I came to India with my wife and son on March 6 since my father had to undergo a surgery. My employment visa is expiring on June 13 2020. I am not sure if I could travel before my visa expiry”
“I am currently on unpaid leave and I have financial commitments to fulfill there. Our son’s vaccination and health review is due since sometime. With the new Indian rule, we feel we are going to be stuck for a longer period. There has to be an urgent solution for people like us who are at no fault.”
Another Indian expat Prashant Pandya has been stuck back home for more than two months. His UAE residence visa expired on May 12. Pandya, an engineer by profession, is worried whether he will get approval to travel back to the UAE after the new rule.
“I have not been paid for the last two months I have been stranded in India. Added to this, I am still continuing to pay my rent, Dewa, Du bills etc. if this was not stress enough, now I have to contend with the new Indian regulations. I just don’t know when all this will end.”
Mariyam Ahmed, another Indian expat said both her sons’ visas expired on May 15 and 21. “I checked the system. However, it clearly mentions that the visas have been extended until the end of the year. We should be allowed entry back to the UAE like others.”