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Pilgrimage residence visas spark huge demand
Abu Dhabi, Feb 19th, 2001

Hundreds of visitors have been granted one-year residence visas by the Abu Dhabi Naturalization and Residence Department to enable them to go to Saudi Arabia for the Haj (pilgrimage).

The visas were granted so that the visitors could perform the Haj alongside immediate relatives who are long-time UAE residents. Recently, the Saudi authorities stopped issuing Haj or Umra (lesser pilgrimage) visas to those applying in the UAE unless they had residence permits. This forced hundreds of families to abandon their Haj journeys.

In previous years it was common for UAE residents to invite their relatives abroad to join them here and then go together to perform the Haj or Umra. UAE officials issued the visitors a double visit visa to allow them to return here with their relatives and then continue on home.

The Saudi Embassy issued pilgrimage visas based on the double visa. But this year the Saudis said they would issue visas here only to UAE residents. Consequently, officials last week decided to issue residence visas valid for one year.

Hundreds of applications were processed last Wednesday and Saturday. But following a disturbance on Saturday caused by the surging crowds, the visas were quickly halted. Mazoub Khan, who has invited his elder sister to join him for the Haj, said, "I reached the department after Fajr prayers because I knew there would be a big crowd and managed to submit the passport before a fight started.

"It was disgusting and shameful for people not to have a little patience. Things were going quite well, and all the officers, both senior and junior, were extending their full support and putting all their efforts into processing as many applications as possible."

Saudia-Online.com

Source: Gulf News 

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19 February 2001 02:57:50 PM

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