Amnesty programme: Dawn of a new life for many in UAE

This is the third such amnesty announced by the UAE government in just over a decade.

Tens of thousands of expatriates residing illegally in the UAE are expected to avail of the three-month amnesty, which kicks off today.

First announced in June, the amnesty means violators overstaying in the country will now have the option to either rectify their legal status through paying nominal fees - with all overstay fines waived - or if they choose, they can leave the UAE voluntarily without prosecution.

With nine centres set up across immigration departments in the UAE to accommodate and carry out different services under the amnesty, residents are expected to flock to the centres in thousands during the first few days.

From work-absconders to duped workers, embassies and consulates across the country as well as immigration departments, have been gearing up for this moment for more than a month now.

This is the third such amnesty announced by the UAE government in just over a decade, with more than 400,000 availing of the service during the last two pardon periods. In 2007, about 342,000 residents made use of a two-month amnesty, and in 2012/2013, just over 60,000 residents sought out the service.

While the amnesties in 2007 and 2012/2013 ran for two months, this latest one will be ongoing for an additional month, with the option to extend also being a possibility.

In a number of interactions with Khaleej Times, official spokespeople from both the Indian and Philippine consulates in Dubai said they are expecting a smaller turnout of people availing of the amnesty this year. This is as a result of two main reasons; the introduction of more independent social organisations stepping in to help workers over the past few years, as well as the large turnout of residents in the previous two amnesties.

In November 2012, when the most recent amnesty was first announced (the grace-period of which ended on February 4, 2013) the government issued a warning, urging all those looking to seek help to do so within the two-month period.

It reiterated that those found illegally staying in the country after the end date will face legal action and the ensuing fines for overstaying, as stipulated by the law.

Although officials have hinted at the possibility of this latest amnesty being extended after October, illegal residents are still being encouraged to rectify their status or settle fines and leave, well within the three-month period. Those who delay or lag behind and wait until the last days of the amnesty will not be given an extension past the conclusion date.

On the last day of the 2012/2013 amnesty, the Nepal Embassy issued just one outpass to a resident, bringing the total number filed during the two-month period to 133.

A total of 350 outpasses were issued by the Bangladeshi Embassy and Consulate, bringing the final total to 20,800. And over at the Philippine Embassy, 15 residents chose to cut it fine and apply for the amnesty on the final day.

Step-by-step guide to availing amnesty

How to get an exit pass

>Applicants need to approach one of the nine immigration centres in UAE, depending on where their last visa was issued

>They should have their original passport or an emergency certificate issued by their embassies

>Immigration officials will take the fingerprint and eye scan of applicants

>Applicants will then need to exit the country within 10 days

How to regularise status

>Applicants need to go to Amer centres to submit their applications

>After paying the fees as due, they can opt for a six-month temporary visa to look for a new job

>If they already have been offered a new job, they can immediately get a residency visa

> Any fees or fines they might have incurred as a result of their illegal stay will be waived off

If applicants have entered UAE illegally

>Their status cannot be regularised and they will be issued an exit pass

>They will get a two-year entry ban to the UAE

In case of criminal case or outstanding loans:

> All loans and criminal cases will need to be cleared before they can avail of the amnesty

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