Dubai: Stranded expats and those who wish to visit the UAE on visit visa have welcomed the latest announcement by the authorities allowing Indians to enter the Emirates under an air bubble arrangement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several stranded UAE residents are also heaving a sigh of relief after Monday’s announcement that those landing in Abu Dhabi will no longer require approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA).
Indian mother Varsha Adani, 55, who works in a foodstuff company as a manager in Dubai, said she has been eagerly waiting for her daughter Pankati (20) to arrive in the last five months. The fourth year architecture student in Manipal University has also been longing to meet her mother. The wait could finally be over.
“I tried calling my travel agent on Tuesday and I was told that the bookings have not yet started happening despite the announcement on Monday. But now it’s okay,” she said.
Basil Abdul Jabber, 26, a mechanical engineer working for a calibration company, said he too is very excited with the latest ease of travel restrictions for stranded Indians coming to the UAE. His wife Shamna Kasim, 23, a pharmacist working in Kerala, is waiting to be reunited with him and he is working full time now to get her on a visit visa as soon as possible.
Similarly, Lovely Dey Malik, who has been stranded in Gurgaon, near Delhi, since January 2020, said she has been overwhelmed with news. “I have been separated from my husband for the past seven months. I cannot wait to see him.”
Besides missing her husband, she also lost her job in the UAE. “Which company will wait for their employees to return after seven-eight months? I wish the rule had been relaxed earlier, but nevertheless this is great. It has been a struggle for me. My personal belongings are in the UAE. My ICA application was rejected multiple times and I don’t know why.”
Rohit Kumar, 31, who went to India on March 8 for a family function and medical treatment, said he too grappled with several ICA rejections. “My wife and I both work and for the past five months, we have been on unpaid leave. It is a big relief that we can come to the UAE without ICA approval.”
Gautam Sehgal, working in Abu Dhabi for a government company, said: “I have been stuck in New Delhi since March after lockdown. It’s been a long struggle with a lot of mental stress. The news about ease in travel restrictions is great. My visa also expired on August 8, it is a matter of urgency that I return to the UAE,” he said.
Afi Ahmed, managing director of Smart Travel LLC, said as a travel agent, he is awaiting greater clarity on the latest travel announcement for the entry of Indians into UAE. “Through Tuesday, I have been inundated with queries from Indian travellers to UAE who are not clear about all the provisions. They want to know if it is necessary to have ICA approval to land in all the emirates? Or is the rule applicable to only Abu Dhabi? Also, if someone has been stranded outside the UAE for more than six months, can they travel back to the UAE without ICA or GDRFA approval?”