New visa rule has now been implemented as Dubai residents are unable to renew their residence visas without the mandatory health insurance coverage.
An information office at the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs confirmed that since the beginning of December, they were advising every person who came to them with such a query to first secure health insurance if they were looking for a seamless visa renewal. However, no fines are being imposed until further notice.
Typing centres authorised to renew residence visas of Dubai residents are turning away candidates who have no health insurance. Many residents who failed to secure health insurance coverage are getting it issued online at the typing centres and paying at least Dh200 premium on a Dh650 Essential Basic Package (EBP).
This was confirmed by at least half a dozen typing centres in Dubai. A representative at one of the typing centres explained: “Although health insurance is not mandatory to upload the documents for residence visa renewal, we are compelled to demand that be the case as many residents are turned back without it and asked to furnish it. We cannot take a chance. There are some insurance companies that are online and for an extra fee, we are able to process this,” he added.
Insurance brokers, however, are reporting major confusion regarding this. Jonaki Bhattacharya, one of the insurance brokers, said: “We wish there was more clarity and awareness among all stakeholders which include typing centres, HR departments of companies, underwriters at insurance companies, immigration authorities and individuals.”
In many cases, brokers have arranged the insurance coverage for clients but the card is yet to be processed, so residents are being asked to attach a certificate from the insurance company. Some residents are concerned about this. “The typing centres are not accepting a letter from the broker as in many cases, the underwriters have still not completed their jobs and the insurance companies are not taking calls. They are not responding to emails [either], resulting in a sort of an unnecessary block,” said a resident.
A self-employed salesman who identified only as B.A. said his visa expired a month ago. “I had applied for health insurance in December but because of the rush, the company did not issue the insurance card on time. I have paid the insurance cost and am still waiting for my card. Without it, I am unable to process my visa renewal and fear the penalty that is accruing to me.”
Some insurance service providers confirmed that up to 1,400 new applications were pending with them waiting to be processed and the companies have stopped taking calls. “We are unable to move ahead as insurance companies are struggling to streamline the situation but are unable to do so as the volume of work is just too much.”
Businesses fear that clamping down on individual residence visa renewals might mean that companies could find it difficult to renew their trade licences unless all their employees are insured. “We want to do it but the processing time is taking too long. Insurance companies have accepted the cheques but not processed our papers. In some cases, insurance coverage has been granted, but cards are not activated, and when you call the insurance company, no one responds,” said a businessman who has failed to secure health insurance for his employees despite having submitted the applications in December.
In a previous interview, Dr Haidar Al Yousuf, Director of Health Funding at Dubai Health Authority, had cautioned Dubai residents asking them to get health insurance as soon as possible. He had said: “Residents are advised not to wait until the end of the deadline to get health insurance and we are there to address all complaints. Residents are advised to lodge their complaints on www.isahd,ae. We are endeavouring to address each complaint and resolve it as soon as possible.”