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Unable to Return to the UAE or Your Home Country?  Here is What You Need to Know
| Marcin Kubarek | Angharad James

Unable to Return to the UAE or Your Home Country? Here is What You Need to Know

Amid the current pandemic, the UAE government has implemented many new policies and measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. These efforts have included the suspension of entry of UAE residents, announced on 19 March, which came with a temporary mobility restriction of all inbound and outbound flights. While inevitable, this decision left both visitors in the UAE unable to return to their home countries, as well as Emiratis and foreign nationals with a residence visa unable to return to the UAE. The restrictions imposed have left many families separated from each other on an unprecedented scale.

Return of Emiratis and foreign residents to the UAE

A few days after the borders were closed, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) introduced a service called “Twajudi,” which aims to facilitate a safe return to the UAE, and includes initiatives to allow repatriation of Emiratis and returning foreign residents. The Twajudi service encourages users to register through the MOFAIC website by completing an online questionnaire and uploading copies of personal documents, including passport and residence permit. The registration process later moved to the electronic portal of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (FAIC). The FAIC  is now responsible for approving the applications and individuals can track the status of their application here. Upon successful review of the application, the foreign national will receive an email from the MOFAIC with a unique approval code which will be provided to the airline to book his or her flight.

The MOFAIC has shown that the return of doctors, teachers and emergency cases are their highest priority. For instance, there have been several success stories regarding the reunion of parents separated from their children. The approvals also seem to be aligned with the recent decision of resuming inbound flights from select destinations, which gives tremendous hope of a return for those who have been caught by a sudden change of circumstance with no option to travel back to the UAE.

Repatriation of Foreign Nationals

Considering the UAE is a prime destination for tourism, the closure of international borders and the cancellation of flights resulted in many visitors, including those who have been left unemployed due to the pandemic, unable to return home. Once the decision to resume limited passenger flights was made, a special committee for facilitating the repatriation of Emiratis and foreign nationals was formed.

According to the Emirates News Agency, as of 19th April a total of 2,286 Emirati citizens had returned to the UAE in 86 repatriation trips, and as of 30th April more than 37,000 foreign nationals have been repatriated from the UAE in 127 trips to several countries within Europe, the U.S., the Middle East and Asia. The latter repatriations have been completed through a close cooperation between the MOFAIC and the governments of other countries. While there are still ongoing developments, 7 May saw the first repatriation flight from the UAE to India, which was made possible after lengthy negotiations between the governments of both countries. This flight enabled more than 300 people to return safely home to India. However, there are still considerably more awaiting the return to their home country.

Aside from the above efforts, the UAE government announced those who do not benefit from these initiatives will not face any consequences for overstaying their visa terms, and that the validity of their visa has been automatically extended until the end of December 2020.

While repatriation flights are ongoing on an almost daily basis, the preparations for the resumption of regular services is also now underway. If someone is currently abroad and unable to return to the UAE, we recommend that that person register his or her application through the FAIC portal and check its status daily.  We also advise to remain in touch with the nearest UAE embassy or consulate for any further updates.

If you have questions regarding the matters described in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact your Fragomen immigration professional or Angharad James at [email protected].

This blog was released on 21 May 2020 and, due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our  COVID-19 microsite and subscribe to our alerts. You may also follow our LinkedIn account.