Travel agents have advised UAE residents returning to the country to thoroughly check requirements before booking their air tickets. This includes getting a negative Covid-19 PCR test result and checking the validity of travel on a Federal Authority of Identity and Citizenship (ICA) website (https://uaeentry.ica.gov.ae).
The advice comes after some residents were reportedly stranded at Abu Dhabi and Sharjah airports on Monday. On August 12, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) had announced that returning residents don't need a pre-travel approval from the ICA to return.
They were instead urged to check the validity of their documents on the ICA website. While most residents received a green message asking them to proceed with their travel plans, others received a red one that said: "We will consider the possibility of rescheduling your travel date after 60 days to preserve your safety. We thank, and appreciate your understanding." It is understood that passengers who received this red message are the ones who got stranded at the airports.
Step-by-step travel guide
Afi Ahmed, managing director of Smart Travels, said passengers must follow a step-by-step process before booking their tickets:
Step 1: Passengers travelling to all emirates except Dubai must check the validity of their documents on uaeentry.ica.gov.ae. They must input their Emirates ID number, passport number, passport type and nationality. Dubai residents must get a General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) pre-travel approval.
Step 2: Once you have received a 'green' status from the ICA or an approval from the GDRFA, look at the rules and regulations set by the airline you wish to fly with. Also, look at the airport regulations. Those with a 'red' ICA message must reconsider their travel plans.
Step 3: Check if there are any pre-travel approvals set by your home country.
Step 4: Get a Covid test done from a centre approved by the UAE or local authorities.
Step 5: Once you receive the Covid-19 negative test result, book the tickets.
Step 6: On the day of travel, sign the health declaration form and download the UAE's contact tracing app AlHosn. Dubai residents must download the DXB Smart App.
Step 7: Carry PPE kits, hand sanitisers, and other protective equipment for travel. Arrive early at the airport.
NOTE: Visit visa holders must have an insurance against Covid-19.
Who are returning?
TP Sudheesh, general manager, Deira Travels and Tourist, said stranded family members and those looking to rejoin work are the "two main categories" of incoming residents currently. "The situation is very dynamic and sometimes people plan their travel based on information that may be a few days old."
Sudheesh said it is "highly recommended" that passengers submit their data to agencies and keep checking their ICA status before travel.