With the spread of Covid-19 and restrictions implemented by UAE, managing the immigration program efficiently can be challenging. Keeping a track of the changes and whereabouts of the employee population is extremely critical in managing the business continuity to get back on track when the business is back to normal.
Though the immigration regulations remain unchanged, the authorities have made procedural changes based on the national policies announced to combat Covid-19. With what has been noted in other countries across, it is unpredictable on how soon the restrictions would be relaxed completely.
The UAE immigration authority has primarily restricted all the travelers including residence permit holders who are out of country from entering the UAE. Though in-country renewals are still being processed by the immigration depending on the jurisdiction, similar restrictions are in place across region with the government offices either partially or fully closed temporarily.
New Hire Outside UAE:
The UAE immigration has suspended processing any out of country employment entry permit applications. In addition, most of the international inbound flights are suspended. In the interest of business continuity, multiple options are being explored by business units as well are the HR team at large. Working remotely is certainly an option that is being looked at where possible to support the business from individual’s home country.
The unused entry permits of new hires whose permits were approved before the entry ban, have been cancelled from the system. At the moment, it is not certain if they would be re-activated or a new application would need to be submitted once the entry restrictions are relaxed. Keeping a track of these applications is important to process a refund of government fee, especially from the free zone authority.
New Hire Inside UAE:
Though government service offices at major free zones in the UAE are closed, online applications continue to be processed for new hires who are inside UAE. Most of the jurisdictions have mandated medical for new visa applications although several medical centres remain closed until further notice. However, limited number of medical centres are open across UAE, therefore, checking with the free zone office regularly is important to facilitate medical for in country new visa applications.
General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) has suspended stamping of Residence Visa on the passport in most of the jurisdictions temporarily. Keeping a record of those applications is crucial to get the visa stamped, once GDRFA is fully operational.
Renewal of Residence Visas:
In-country applications are being processed in some of the jurisdictions. The medical examination requirement for renewal of residence visa has been temporarily waived. Therefore, the residence visa renewals are being approved by the GDRFA without medical. In addition, according to the UAE Cabinet announcement, residence permits that expired on or after March 1 will be renewed for additional three months, free of charge. At the same time, it is recommended to verify with GDRFA to ensure the extensions are granted for those employees.
Tasheel service centres are not fully operational at the moment, therefore, labour card renewal for the mainland companies are not being accepted for the time being.
GDRFA has suspended stamping of Residence Visa on the passport in most of the jurisdictions. Once the renewal is approved a notification is sent with approval. In some jurisdictions GDRFA is also issuing an e-Residence Visa. Therefore, tracking those applications to get the visa stamped is important once GDRFA is back in office.
Residence Visa Cancellations:
Residence visa cancellation is being processed by majority of the jurisdictions in the UAE, where online portals are active. Residence visa can be cancelled for those employees where the potential employer is able to submit the new visa in country through their portal access. However, as the international flights are not operational, it may not be wise to cancel the residence visa of any leavers who intend to repatriate from UAE at this stage.
In case if you have any short term visitors who are not able to leave UAE due to the cancellation of international flights, their visa would need to be extended. However, the authorities have announced extension of the visas for short duration or waiving off overstay fines. It is recommended that the validity of the visa is verified with GDRFA directly to ensure the extensions are granted automatically.
UAE has also started repatriation flight to few countries, therefore, the visitor should contact their home embassy to avail this facility, as applicable.
GDRFA has suspended processing out of country entry permit applications. In addition, any unused entry permits whose permits were approved before the entry ban, have been cancelled from the system. At this moment, it is not certain if they would be re-activated or a new application would need to be submitted once the entry restrictions are relaxed.
With the temporary closure of Amer service centers, there is a limitation in submitting any in-country new or renewal applications. As per the cabinet resolution, dependents residence visas which is expiring on or after March 1 are being extended for 90 days from the expiry date. However, it is recommended to please verify the new expiry date with the immigration.
It is important to ensure that the company documents such as commercial/trade license, immigration establishment card, etc. are renewed before the expiry date. As these documents are renewed through company portal, the applications are accepted online in most jurisdictions.
Residence Visa Holders Outside UAE:
With the cancellation of international inbound flight, the UAE residence visa holders were not allowed to return to the country initially for two weeks, which was further extended for another two weeks. For those residents who are outside UAE, government has initiated a new service called Twajudi Resident. The residence visa holders are encouraged to register themselves to receive updates from the authorities. The link to this service is here
The governments are also implementing more stricter regulations on the movement of people within the country and encouraging companies to allow their employee to work from home.
Amidst changing immigration regulations and restrictions to mitigate the covid-19 challenges, it is vital for companies to keep themselves updated and track the progress of each application as well as employee immigration status in order to be able to manage a compliant immigration program.
How can BM Strategies assist?
Given the dynamic nature of the immigration environment, we at BM Strategies guide our clients on the best and most efficient options in developing, implementing, and managing compliant UAE immigration programs. Please reach out to us for more information on email@example.com
Disclaimer: The information provided here are only for the purpose of providing an overview of the UAE immigration processes. The immigration regulations are subject to change from time to time and from one jurisdiction to another. The information provided hereby should not be considered an opinion or advice from BM Strategies but only a practical guide for general information.
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Posted on 10-Apr-2020.