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Clark Benida with his wife (inset).

PHOTO BY EXPAT MEDIA/SUPPLIED


Filipino expat shares experience returning to Dubai after 4-month wait

 

DUBAI – A Filipino expatriate who recently returned to Dubai after spending four months outside the UAE has shared details of his experience in the hope of helping expats waiting for their turn to reenter the emirate.

“It was stressful trying to get information for Filipino Overseas Workers in the Philippines who needed to go back to their workplace abroad. So I said to myself if I pass this hurdle, I will share my experience to help others,” Clark Benida, a 30-year-old expat based in Dubai, told Expatmedia.net.

Benida and his wife returned to Dubai on July 26 after the couple flew to the Philippines on March 18 to deliver their first baby. They had already planned their vacation around the baby’s birth, which came at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Two ICA rejections later

While they welcomed the newest blessing to their family, the couple needed to go back to Dubai to resume work. But with travel restrictions in the Philippines and UAE, as well as government approvals to secure, their scheduled vacation stretched until July.

“Our applications with ICA were always denied, but when the GDRFA online approval system was launched for Dubai visa holders, our applications were denied just twice before we finally got approval. Our applications were initially rejected because I didn’t upload clear photos of our visa, Emirates ID and passport. In my latest application, I made sure the file sizes were 1mb for quick approval,” Benida told Expatmedia.net.

Currently, all UAE residence visa holders need to get prior approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) or the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) to reenter the emirates. Dubai visa holders can apply through the GDRFA while all other visa holders can apply through the ICA.

Nearly missed Dubai flight due to Covid-19 test

Coming from Negros Oriental, Benida said they were forced to stay one week in the capital, Manila, because there was no accredited Covid-19 test facility in their province. They also nearly missed their flight with Cebu Pacific.

“We were almost denied boarding because of some confusion over the validity of the Covid-19 test report. The test needs to be taken not more than 96 hours prior to landing in Dubai,” Benida said. “The timeframe is not based on the date that the test result was issued, but on the date you took the test”.

“To be safe, get yourself tested less than 72 hours prior to your departure,” he advised. He said it is also important to get tested at a facility that can release test results quickly.

“We got tested at a facility that took four days to release the test results. I advise people to go for testing at St. Luke’s Medical Centre if they have extra money to spare. The test costs 7,000 pesos (Dh523) but they are able to provide a test result in two days,” he said.

Arriving in Dubai

Benida said the couple’s arrival in Dubai was smooth, and that after getting tested again for Covid-19 at the Dubai airport, they were able to head straight to their apartment.

Emiratis and UAE residence visa holders are required undergo mandatory Covid-19 PCR test on arrival at the Dubai airport. By August 1, however, only people from 29 countries will undergo mandatory nasal swab when they land in Dubai.

“You will be given a test report showing whether you tested positive or negative for coronavirus. If you test positive, you need to go on home quarantine,” he said.

Benida said he is now in “back to work” mode and can’t wait for the next chance to visit his newborn who was left behind in the Philippines. (Scroll down for step-by-step guide for returning OFWs, Benida’s breakdown of expenses, list of accredited test centers in Philippines and the UAE’s new travel rule from August 1)

Guide for Filipino UAE residence visa holders returning to Dubai from Philippines

Benida shares his tips for Filipino UAE residence visa holders returning to Dubai from the Philippines:

From province to Manila

1. If you are in your province, head to the Tourism Office in your Municipality to be enlisted in the sweeper flights to Manila.

Bring the following documents:

– Barangay Certificate stating you are free from Covid-19
– Medical certificate from your town’s Municipal Health Office
– IATF travel certificate from your local police station
– Booking confirmation (optional, in case you are staying in a hotel or apartment)

Requirements may vary based on your province, so always check with your municipality officials for the latest updates. The requirements mentioned above are for OFWs flying to Manila from Negros Oriental at the time of publication. The documents and certification were issued free of cost.

From Manila to Dubai

1. At the airport, present your POEA and OEC number in order to get a Declaration Form that you need to fill. The form will be given at the POEA desk.

2. Head to the Help Desk of your airline before check-in to verify if you have complete requirements for the flight.

Requirements needed for boarding:
– OEC
– Passport
– Health insurance (in Dubai)
– Declaration Form
– GDRFA or ICA re-entry permit
– Airline ticket
– Departure form (given by the airline before check-in)
– Covid-19/PCR swab test report (taken not more than 96 hours prior to landing in Dubai).

3. After getting your boarding ticket, head to the Immigration Desk.

Documents to present:
– GDRFA or ICA re-entry permit
– Passport
– OEC/MEC

Arrival at Dubai airport

1. Upon arriving in Dubai, you will be given a Health Declaration Form to sign.

2. Download the Covid-19 DXB smart app.

3. Present the following documents for checking:

– Passport
– Emirates ID
– Boarding ticket

2. You will be given a plastic pack with a test tube for your PCR test.

3. Pass through the Immigration Desk and present your passport and Emirates ID.

4. Fall in line for the PCR test. The test is free of cost.

5. Wait for your test result and follow further instructions.

ICA/Expat Media


Breakdown of expenses for return to Dubai

Benida shared a breakdown of his expenses to return to Dubai

Swab test: P11,000 (P5,500 each)

Negros-Manila flight: P18,000 (for two passengers)

Manila-Dubai flight: P30,000 (for two passengers)

Hotel apartment in Makati: P8,000 (half of total bill split with two friends who shared the room)

Transportation and miscellaneous expenses: P2,000

Total expenses: P69,000 (Dh5,158)


Accredited Covid-19 testing centers in Philippines

In the Philippines, there are 85 accredited testing facilities where travelers can get their Covid-19 test. Click here for list

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Pre-departure Covid-19 test mandatory for Filipino travelers to Dubai


New UAE travel rule from August 1

Starting on August 1, all travelers heading to the UAE must present a negative Covid-19 test result before they can board their flight.

According to National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, the rules apply to “all Emiratis, residents, and tourists, arriving via the country’s airports, irrespective of the countries they are coming from”.

The coronavirus test must be taken not more than 96 hours before their departure time and presented before they board their flight, according to the new UAE federal rule.

The rules also apply to transit passengers passing through the UAE. Children under the age of 12 are exempted from the requirement. ICA/Expat Media


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