ABU DHABI // Filipinos who are unable to find work or have left their jobs to run a business have resorted to buying UAE visas despite the risks of jail time and deportation.
A recent case involving a Filipina caught with an illegally acquired visa has highlighted the problem.
The 37-year-old woman, who worked at a coffee shop for two years, bought a visa for about Dh10,000 from a broker in November last year.
“Gina” used the visa so she could live in the UAE and sublet flats and rooms in Dubai. When she was at Dubai airport this month for her flight to Kish, her illegal papers led to her being deported and banned for life.
“I advised her about the dangers of buying a visa,” said Gina’s 38-year-old sister. “I’ve come across many Filipinos who bought visas and were later detained by immigration. In fact, my best friend who helped me get to Dubai six years ago was deported and banned.”
The sister sought help from Dubai-based firm Gulf Law which found out the visa sponsor had provided documents to other Filipinas.
“We were told by immigration that those who are under his sponsorship would be deported,” said Yvonne Samson, a paralegal at the firm.
A UAE employment visa is arranged by an employer for an expatriate to enter the UAE. The sponsor or employer then arranges a residence visa and work permit.
The residence visa allows expatriates to live here for a determined period, usually two or three years between renewals.
Anyone found to be living or working in the UAE illegally faces fines of Dh100 a day for visa offences and Dh25 a day for residency offences.
Last year, the migrant rights group Migrante UAE said those seeking illegal visas either paid a broker or an Emirati sponsor. In most cases, brokers take off with the money without delivering processed visas.
“I urge Filipinos from buying residence visas,” Ms Samson said. “If they do not wish to be employees but instead set up their own business, they can apply for an investor’s visa.”
In a separate case, a Filipina, who did not wish to be named, opted to pay Dh6,500 to a broker for a babysitter visa after not being able to find work. She now fears being deported after learning that the visa sponsor was wanted for trading visas illegally.
“Always go through the proper channels,” Delmer Cruz, the Philippine labour attache in Dubai, said. “If you get caught, you’ll be faced with the huge burden of paying fines and you may even lose the opportunity to work in the UAE.”
Officials at the Naturalisation, Residency and Port Affairs sector at the Ministry of Interior did not respond to requests for comment.