Travel agents say they are no longer doing visa runs to Kish Island
Travel agencies are no longer booking return tickets from the UAE to Iran for Filipinos, Pakistanis and Indians travelling there on ‘visa runs’, after finding dozens have become stranded in the Islamic Republic.
Several travel agencies who spoke to 7DAYS said they have had to send their Filipino clients back to the Philippines as their UAE visa is being shown as either ‘pending’ or ‘error’ in the system.
Mayeth Orcalas, a travel agent at Al Qadi Tourism, said that they have eight Filipino passengers stranded on Kish Island as their UAE visas have not been processed.
Visa runs are common among some expats. Some work on visit or tourist visas, leaving the UAE and re-entering on new ones, which is against labour laws but still occurs.
Others leave the country and re-enter on working visas when changing jobs.
Orcalas said: “We’re not doing exit packages from Iran anymore.
“We already have passengers who are stuck on Kish Island. Their visas keep coming back listed as ‘pending’ and some as ‘errors’.
“No other agency is booking exits from Iran either. We’re not sure why the visas are not being processed anymore. It’s been happening since the beginning of February.
This is the first time we’ve faced something like this.”
Kashif, from Al Zaid Tourism, said that the firm is guiding people looking for a new visa to take a return flight to Oman or Qatar as they also have passengers stranded in Iran waiting for their UAE visas to be approved.
However, the company said its clients in Iran are also facing the same issue, with their UAE visas showing up as ‘error’. Kashif said: “We have about four passengers stuck on Kish Island and Qeshim right now.
“We have sent some of them back to the Philippines as they had no other option – they were stuck in Iran for almost two weeks.
“As of now, we are booking packages for visa runs only to Oman and Doha for Filipinos because we know they will be stranded in Iran if we send them there as their UAE visas will not
Philippines Consul Giovanni Palec, said it is a “common problem” for Filipinos to get stranded in Iran, mainly on Kish. He said: “The only assistance we can provide to them is to refer them to our embassy in Iran and they can take it from there.”
The UAE Ministry of Interior did not respond to a 7DAYS request for comment.
‘Don’t hang about on island, head for home’
Stays on Kish Island are limited
Dubai law firm director Barney Almazar said that Filipinos who remain stranded on Kish should return to their home country rather than hold out for a new visa – because legally they are only allowed to stay for a limited period.
He said his firm, Gulf Law, which works with the Philippines Consulate, has asked UAE immigration authorities why visas for people waiting in Iran are not being processed.
Almazar said the reason remains unclear, although those travelling to renew their visas in Iran have faced a string of problems.
He said: “We asked immigration why the visas are not processing – they did not mention that there is a set rule that says if you have been to Iran you can’t get a UAE visa.
“I would say that if you are unsure of your visa status, you should return to your home country. “There are other reasons why your visa might not be processed.
“Sometimes, the employer does not process your visa even though he promised he would.” Almazar said that Filipinos have had problems in the past in obtaining their UAE visas.
He said many come to the UAE on tourist visas and secure jobs once here, because getting their overseas permit – which is required by the law in the Philippines – can be a very long process.
But once they go on a visa run they become stranded. And rather than try to help to process their visa, in many cases it is cheaper for the firm to leave them stranded and hire someone new, Almazar said.