Stranded expatriates in ‘red list’ countries wishing to return home to their families in the UAE can apply for travel exemption ‘on humanitarian grounds’ through the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) web portal and mobile application.
Travel agencies who have been facilitating this service have confirmed that many passengers, including those who have taken their vaccinations outside the UAE, have made their way back to the country.
“Family reunion qualifies as the top reason for travel on humanitarian grounds.
The rule for ‘humanitarian travel’ is applicable to residents who are currently stranded in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Nigeria and Uganda.
Last week, the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) announced that fully vaccinated residence visa holders from the ‘red list countries can return to the country starting August 5 as long as both jabs of their vaccine doses have been taken in the UAE.
However, some categories of travellers — including healthcare workers, teachers, students, Expo 2020 workers, medical exemption cases and humanitarian cases — are being given permission to travel without getting a vaccine as well. Pre-travel approvals from relevant immigration authorities, depending on the emirate they are flying to, is also mandatory.
How to apply for humanitarian consideration?
Those applying for humanitarian consideration must upload their relevant details on the ICA ‘Register Arrivals’ website:
“Once the passenger has provided applicant information, passport information, address in the UAE, and vaccine information (wherever applicable), there is a section called ‘accessories info’. Here, they have to upload a copy of a letter explaining the reason for emergency travel,”.
For example, if reunion of families is a reason for travel, the applicant has to write a signed letter stating the name of their sponsor and relationship with the dependent. “In some cases, if the husband is in the UAE, for example, and the wife and kids are in India, and they need to be reunited, the letter can state this as reason for travel,” the agents explained.
Once the documents are submitted on the ‘Register Arrivals’ webpage of the ICA, the applicants will receive a QR code in their e-mail.
“It is recommended that passengers carry all supporting documents with them to the departure airport in the home country. In the check-in counter of departing airports, these must be provided along with the RT-PCR test, four-hour rapid PCR test result, and other pre-requisites set by the UAE government,” they explained.
Who qualifies for humanitarian exemption?
“Humanitarian exemptions are granted on a case-to-case basis. The letter that the passenger provides must explain the emergency and they must have a valid residency visa,” said Abbas. However, here are some examples of passengers who can apply for humanitarian exemptions:
- Families who’ve been living apart for several months and wish to be reunited
- Children who need to apply for admissions to schools in the UAE
- Aged parents with valid UAE residency visas who would like to return to their children in the UAE
- Expectant mothers and accompanying children
What documents need to be provided?
- A copy of the letter explaining the reason for an emergency return to the UAE. This letter also needs to be uploaded on the ICA ‘register arrivals’ website
- Passport, Emirates ID, vaccination record (if any), valid visa, PCR test results, address details
- The agents also recommend that passengers carry Emirates ID and passport copies of their sponsors
ICA and GDRFA approvals for humanitarian cases
Pre-travel ICA and General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) approvals are needed for humanitarian cases as well. However, while applying for ICA approvals, the ‘register arrivals’ and ‘residence entry confirmation’ are two separate processes, explained Sudheesh.
“What we’ve noticed is that people are getting confused with them. For example, if the passenger is a Dubai resident and wants to apply for humanitarian exemption, they can do so on the ICA ‘register arrivals website’ and then apply on the GDRFA website for re-entry into Dubai as ICA is a federal database,” he explained.
“The ICA pre-travel approval is a straightforward process. It instantly tells you with a ‘green status’ if you are allowed to travel or not. Those who receive the ‘red status’ cannot travel. This is applicable to all categories of travellers,” he added.
The agents also recommended that residents who have had trouble getting the QR code from the ICA use the mobile application instead of the website for easier access.