From August 1 to October 31, citizens of Syria, Yemen and Libya will be eligible for a one-year United Arab Emirates residency visa (regardless of their current visa status) as part of an amnesty.

This means that any citizen from these three countries who is living illegally anywhere in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) can fix their legal status. This is part of the amnesty which has been designed to help those from war-struck countries.

And, the amnesty is not limited to refugees. ANYONE who is living illegally will be allowed to leave the country without any penalties. No ban will be issued in terms of re-entering the UAE. However, if they had entered the country illegally in the first place, a two-year ban will be issued on them.

Photo by CNN

This amnesty was announced around the same time the news on how immigrant children in the United States were being held in cages was making headlines worldwide. Children were also separated from their parents, who had either entered or stayed in the country illegally.

A US federal judge Dana Sabraw had issued a deadline of July 10, 2018, for authorities to reunite parents with their children. However, hundreds of children are still waiting are in limbo.

These are examples of two countries and how they treat immigrants and people who have entered the country illegally. They are both implementing immigration and visa reforms, but, in very different manners.

The UAE is obviously taking a very friendly approach and is ensuring people are given a second chance. Illegal people who leave during the amnesty can still return with a legal status, and, there is proof of that considering UAE’s previous amnesties held in 2013 and 2007. The same outcome in the US is next to impossible, especially with the current administration.

UAE’s amnesty actually treats people, regardless of their legal status, as human beings and that’s commendable. Everyone deserves a second chance. People do not enjoy or vengefully stay illegally in the country to make the government angry, their tragic personal situations lead them to that status –  they need help from the government, not punishment.

For several years, I’ve been covering the stories of Syrian refugees in the UAE and when the amnesty was announced, I found many that were staying illegally in the country. They are excited to avail this amnesty and start a new chapter in their lives. Not having a legal status can really impact not only the parents’ lives, but, also their children.

If your family is illegal in the UAE, you can’t enroll them into school, you can’t rent a house, you can’t buy a car and you can’t even wire money without a valid UAE identification card. Now, with this amnesty, illegal residents have hope.

I think a similar amnesty can prove to be really helpful in other countries as well. Illegal people without a criminal offence should be given a second chance –  hear their case and see how you can help them become a contributing member to society again.

From August 1, I will be reporting live with updates on the amnesty and how citizens from Syria, Yemen and Libya are availing it. I will also be covering another part of the amnesty, in which recent widows are also eligible for a one-year residency visa.

Stay tuned.

  • The views expressed in this blog are my own and does not represent the views of my employer.