There is no ban on UAE residents stranded abroad as all are allowed to return to the country provided they follow the set procedure, said a senior government official.

Major General Mohammed Al Marri, Director-General of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai, also made it clear that UAE residents who are stranded abroad for more than six months can also return without any issue after following entry regulations. Earlier, it was mandatory for residents to come back to the UAE within six months.

Major General Al Merri responded to questions from UAE residents within the country and abroad on a social media channel #AskDXBOfficial launched by the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO). He was the first government official to come on this platform and answered a series of questions on current immigration and travel procedures and protocols for citizens and residents.

Community platform
The Dubai Media Office last week launched #AskDXBOfficial, an initiative that gives the public and the media a chance to ask questions to Dubai’s senior government officials. The initiative is part of GDMO’s objective of creating platforms that allow the community to clarify issues and concerns with government officials.

Alia Al Theeb, Senior Manager, Strategic Communications, Government of Dubai Media Office said: “#AskDXBOfficial is part of GDMO’s aim of introducing new interactive communication channels to ensure the Government of Dubai is constantly connected and engaged with citizens and residents.

“In a continuously evolving environment, we place a high priority on communicating directly with the community with clarity and transparency. #AskDXBOfficial invites the public to ask questions to key government officials each week. Answers to their queries will be posted on GDMO’s official social media platforms,” she added.

Valid visas
Answering a question during the interaction, Major General Al Merri said all residents holding a valid resident visa are allowed to return to Dubai. Once they receive a return permit from GDRFA-Dubai and obtain a negative PCR test result, they can return to Dubai through any UAE airport.

He, however, clarified the residents with expired residency visas should renew their visas before exiting the country if they wish to return to the UAE.

Fines due to job losses
Responding to a question regarding people who have incurred fines after losing their jobs because of travel restrictions, he said: “To all those who have accumulated fines, please do not assume you cannot exit the country. We at Dubai Airports and GDRFA will handle each humanitarian case individually and facilitate their travel.”

The number of passengers at Dubai Airport is seeing a daily average rise of 5%, said Al Merri. He hoped that by the end of 2020, passenger traffic would return to levels seen at the start of the year.

He explained that those who have valid residence visas but have been outside the country for more than six months are allowed to return without any fines after meeting the set criteria including travel approval and PCR COVID-19 test.

Visit Visa holders
About the visit/tourist visas issued before the COVID-19 restrictions were imposed, Major General Al Merri said the GDRFA is coordinating with the tourism companies to find an optimal solution for those whose tourist/visit visas were canceled due to the pandemic. He said the decision in this regard would be taken soon. “We hope to receive an increasing number of visitors and tourist groups by the end of the year,” he added.

Travel approvals
Major General Al Merri said that companies can also approach the GDRFA to get approval for the return of their employees who are stranded abroad. “In case, anyone facing issue in getting permission on the GDRFA online portal, employer or company can approach the GDRFA for travel permission,” he added.

To a question, he clarified that it was not mandatory for each member of the family to get travel permission. “If the head of the family including father or mother gets approval, children are not required to get travel approvals and the whole family can return to the UAE with one approval if they are traveling together,” he said.

Use any airline
Major General Al Merri also made it clear that it was not necessary to buy UAE-based airline tickets as UAE residents are free to travel on the airline of their choice. Travel approvals have nothing to do with the choice of airline for travel.

He said that there is no restriction on travel of nationals of other Gulf countries provided they fulfill the mandatory requirements.