PH mission in UAE ‘ready to help’ Filipino visa runners amid coronavirus crisis
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Visa runners in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) now have to spend a few hundred dirhams more to have their documents renewed or face possible deportation. This, following the temporary closure of the Oman border over new coronavirus concerns.
Consul General Marford Angeles of the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi urged Filipinos staying in the country on expiring visit visas to follow the law.
He said the embassy and the consulate “are always ready to help those needing assistance.”
“We all have to follow the immigration regulations of the host country. That means one cannot overstay. Otherwise, there are fines and legal consequences," he explained.
“The embassy welcomes requests for assistance and we will do our best to provide help.... Our kababayans are advised to always be aware of ongoing developments."
What is a visa run?
Visit visa holders need to exit the UAE to have their visas renewed or changed to employment status. The most convenient places for a visa run have been Sohar and Buraimi in neighboring Oman.
Land routes to these cities go through the border in Musandam, Oman, and Hatta in the UAE, which have been closed since last week until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak. (READ: WHO labels coronavirus a 'pandemic' as Europe scrambles to contain it)
According to Malou Prado, CEO of MPQ Tourism, the remaining option is to go “airport-to-airport,” where the visa runner flies to Muscat, the capital of Oman, stays in the plane, and flies back to Dubai, where the new visa can be sent online via Whatsapp and shown to Immigration.
The industry rate for an airport-to-airport visa run costs approximately Dh1,450, whereas taking the land route costs Dh1,100.
Prado, who has been in the travel business for the past 10 years, said some 50 Filipino visa runners leave the UAE for Sohar or Buraimi every day.
She said they received a message on March 4 from their tour operator in Oman, who facilitates the issuance of Oman visas, saying the border-to-border (land route) visa change has been suspended.
“We regret to announce that the border-to-border visa change is temporarily closed. Kindly advise all passengers scheduled on this date that there is no trip and they can reschedule or transfer for airport-to-airport to avoid overstay.
“As of now, there is still no confirmation when this will resume, so please advise all passengers accordingly,” read the tour operator’s message, shared by Prado to Rappler.
Sid Rivera, marketing manager at Al Qadi Tourism, another travel agency, told Rappler that 5 of their visa runners were ordered to return to the UAE upon arrival at the Oman border post in Musandam.
He said the group was part of 13 busloads of visa runners.
“Pagdating nila sa border sa Musandam, may mga police sa Immigration post. Hindi na sila pinapasok ng Musandam at sinabihan na bumalik na lang,” Rivera said.
(When they got to the border at Musandam, there were police at the Immigration post. They weren't allowed to ender Musandam and were told to just head back.)
Rivera said travel agencies are also offering a “no exit” visa change, which is more pricey, and urges visa runners to act fast as the situation is very fluid.
“Hindi natin masabi kasi baka pati flights ma-apektuhan (We can't be sure, since even flights may get affected),” he said. – Rappler.com