The Al Aweer amnesty centre. Nine immigration centres were set up across the emirates. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: A total of 105,809 residence visa violators applied for amnesty in Dubai and 1,212 were from war-torn countries, a top official said on Wednesday.

Al Aweer and Amer centres in Dubai provided amnesty against fines and changed the status of illegal residents to legal as part of a UAE-wide amnesty from August 1 to December 31.

Speaking at a ceremony to celebrate the achievements of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in 2018, director general of the GDRFA, Major General Mohammad Ahmad Al Merri, said: “A total of 13,843 people changed their status from illegal to legal resident. Thousands of people benefited from the amnesty, which gave them the chance to have a better standard of life.”

According to official figures, 18,530 people renewed their visas and 6,288 people got new residency visas.

“The amnesty helped 30,387 people get out-passes after waiving their fines. We also issued 35,549 permits to job seekers.”

Smart gates and tunnels

Elsewhere, about 11.3 million passengers used smart gates at Dubai International Airport last year in a major step towards easing traveller movement in the world’s third busiest airport. “As many as 11.3 million travellers used the 122 smart gates at all arrivals and departures at the Dubai airports this year,” added Al Merri. “The increasing number of passengers using smart gates has considerably reduced waiting times at passport control counters, making travelling easier for airport users.”

GDRFA Dubai also said that 50 million passengers used airports in 2018 and 2.5 million travellers crossed land ports and borders.

“We have more than 15,000 passengers per day using smart gates and tunnels. We will have more smart projects in the future to ease travel movement at airports,” he added.

Entry permits and visas

Major General Al Merri also said the transition to electronic platforms is part of the directorate’s efforts to develop digital services for the convenience of customers.

He added that the directorate handled millions of applications last year, including 1.1 million new residency visas and 13.2 million entry permits for company employees.

“We are continuously looking to adopt the latest technological standards with the aim of saving time and effort for our clients,” he said. “We are following our wise leadership’s aspiring vision to reduce the number of clients in all government service centres. It is a target that we are looking to reach as part of the commitment to instructions given by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. We will reach the target of the Smart Dubai plan for 2021 to make Dubai the happiest city in the world.”

Amer centres in 2018

More than 891 Emirati employees in 61 Amer centres in Dubai, handled 1.7 million applications in 2018.

“We have many Emiratis working at Amer centres in a step to encourage Emiratisation in those centres. Anyone who has any inquiry can call the hotline around the clock,” added Al Merri.

Amer call centres (8005111) received 1.6 million calls last year for different enquiries.

In Numbers

105,809 people benefited from amnesty

1,212 people were from war-torn countries

13,843 people changed their status

18,530 people renew their visas

6,288 people got new residency visas

30,387 people got out-passes

35,549 permits for job seekers

AMNESTY 2018 IN A NUTSHELL

Called ‘Protect Yourself via Rectifying Your Status’, the UAE Government’s Amnesty initiative began on August 1 last year to allow expats violating the residency law a three-month grace period till October 31 to either leave the country voluntarily without prosecution, or rectify their legal status by paying a fee.

The initiative was subsequently extended until December 31. Nine immigration centres were set up across the emirates to facilitate the process. Unlike earlier amnesties, last year’s initiative did not impose a ban on those who left the UAE on exit passes. Even those who fled from their sponsors could leave the country without getting a ban. But illegal residents who entered the UAE through unauthorised ports or means, who were allowed to exit, can re-enter legally only after two years.