Hundreds of expatriates flooded Abu Dhabi’s massive immigration building on Wednesday to take advantage of a decision to suspend new rules requiring them to submit a tenancy contract for the renewal of their visas.
Many applicants confirmed on Wednesday that were not asked to present a rent contact in their application but were told the requirement would be enforced soon. Some of them were asked to submit a rent contract last week when the decision was enforced for a few days before it was shelved.
Immigration officials said the suspension is only temporary and that the new regulations would be enforced in Abu Dhabi and other emirates shortly.
“The decision has been taken and there is no way back….it was suspended temporarily but that does not mean it was cancelled,” an official source said.
“We just want to give more time to both the tenants and landlords…we also want to discuss the issue with other competent authorities and other emirates so the decision is enforced correctly…new details would be released soon.”
The official, who asked not to be named, said discussions would cover a mechanism for applicants living on sharing basis but he gave no other details.
“I have just applied for the renewal of my wife’s visa and I was not asked to submit any tenancy contract,” said Abdul Wahab Mikdah, a public relations employee at an Abu Dhabi-based company.
“The new rules were frozen two days ago…I have just presented visa renewal applications for many workers in my company and they did not include any tenancy contract,” said Salah Badeer, an immigration agent.
Visitors to the Abu Dhabi General Directorate of Residence and Foreign Affairs said the building was on Wednesday packed with applicants seeking to take advantage of the suspension of the new rules.
A public relations employee said some of them have their residence visas expire after one month but are rushing for a renewal before the enforcement of the new rules, which will affect all public and private sector employees.
Immigration officials could not say for how long the new rules would remain frozen but noted that time is needed for some adjustments and to decide whether the rent contract and utility bill would be required or just either of them.
“This decision caught us off guard….we do not know what to do,” said Atef Hariri, who lives in an Dhabi apartment with 14 other men.
“The tenancy contract is in the name of just one of us and each of us can not afford having an apartment on his own…thanks God that I have my residence visa renewed last month…but I am already thinking for the next renewal.”
“I am shocked by this decision,” said another expatriate, Yousuf Yacoub. “I live in a rented room inside an apartment…I simply don’t know what to do.”
The Dubai-based Arabic language daily Al-Bayan quoted another expatriate as saying he and his friends have been shocked by that decision.
“A large part of expatriate workers in Abu Dhabi live in sharing accommodations because they can’t afford having a flat on their own….this rule was shocking to all of us…I only hope they will find a way out for us,” Hussein Ahmed said.
Mohammed Imad, a public relations employee, said many expatriates who have their families in the UAE could be forced to cancel their visas.
“This is because many of them do not have legal tenancy contracts as they live with others…they could simply send their families back home.”