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Passengers seen arriving at Terminal 3, Dubai International Airport. Residents outside the UAE for more than 180 days have welcome the government decision to allow them to return until March 1, 2021. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News archives

Dubai: Indian expat Ummer Koya has been stuck back home since June 18. When he completed six months outside the UAE on December 18, Ummer was worried about not getting approval to return. The news that expats like him, who have been outside for more than 180 days, can return until March 31, provided they have valid visa and approval to return, gave big relief to Ummer.  Earlier, in normaly circustances, UAE residents visa holders would have to enter the UAE within six months or 180 days to ensure the validity of their visas if they travel abroad.

Speaking to Gulf News from his hometown in Kerala, the 51-year-old boat driver said on Wednesday: “I am very happy to know there is still scope for me to get the approval to return till March 31. My family is also happy to know this.”

He thanked the authorities for relaxing the previous rule of automatic cancellation of the visa if the residents are outside the country for more than 180 days.

Ummer Koya

“This is a special consideration given to people like me during the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank the authorities for this. I just pray that I will soon get the approval to return also,” said Ummer.

On Tuesday evening Gulf News had reported the development based on travel updates posted by airlines such as Dubai’s flydubai and India’s Air India Express.

“If you hold a UAE resident visa and have stayed outside of the country for more than 180 days, you will be allowed to enter the UAE until 31 March 2021,” the flydubai website that was last updated on Monday stated. The news has given hope and happiness to several expats, who would benefit from the extension till March 31 to return to their workplaces.

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Shared the good news

Mohammed Dawood Khan, President of Chinar Wing of Pakistan Association Dubai, said many Pakistani expats also expressed their happiness when he shared the news in WhatsApp groups.

Mohammed Dawood Khan

“We had repatriated several Pakistani expats due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of them, who want to return, haven’t been getting approvals. Those who still have valid visa are now happy that they still have the chance to try for approval and come back before March 31,” he said.

Friends are happy

Pakistani expat in Dubai Raja Asad Khalid said his friends Muhammad Zaheed and Bashir Awan have been stuck back home for several months and have been worried about returning.

Raja Asad Khalid

“They have been in touch with me. When I shared this news, they were very happy. They are now hopeful that they will get the approval and manage to return during this extension period,” he said.

However, the flydubai site had also made it clear that passengers holding UAE residence visa that expired before March 1, 2020, and those holding visas that expired after March 1 will not be allowed to enter the UAE even if the visa was [automatically] extended until December 31, 2020. Such passengers are required to apply for a new visa.

What airlines say

“Passengers holding UAE residence visa that expired before 01 March 2020 are not permitted to enter the UAE. You need to apply for a new visa. Passengers holding UAE residence visa that expired after 01 March 2020 and was extended until 31 December 2020, you will not be allowed to enter the UAE. You must apply for a new visa,” the website said.

“If you hold a valid Dubai-issued residence visa, make sure you can obtain an approval from Dubai’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) to return to Dubai before booking your flight. Without approval to return to Dubai, you will not be accepted for travel,” flydubai stated.

“If you hold a valid residence visa issued by any other emirate, you will need to confirm your entry/re-entry to the UAE [ through the portal for UAE entry under the ICA] before booking your flight. If you do not confirm your entry/re-entry to the UAE, you will not be accepted for travel,” it added.