The Golden Visa holders were able to arrive back in the country during the recent Eid break.
The 10-year Golden Visa proved to be a lifeline for a doctor of Pakistani origin who, along with his family of four, flew from Karachi to Dubai in a nearly empty 300-seater Boeing 777 Gulf Air aircraft just in time for the Eid Al Adha celebrations.
Dr Syed Nadir, medical director and head of internal medicine at Dubai’s Adam Vital Hospital, had rushed to Karachi to see his ailing mother in the first week of June, as she was due to undergo an urgent bypass surgery.
“The Golden Visa gave us the confidence to fly back to my native Pakistan amid the flight suspension to see my ailing mother. Many of my doctor friends are stuck in Pakistan due to the restrictions, but without Golden Visas, it is only a waiting game for them.
“Since I know of no other doctor who travelled from Karachi to Dubai using a Golden Visa, my wife and I were apprehensive if we should take the risk or not. Due to my mother’s operation, we decided to go ahead — and we are glad we did.”
Dr Nadir, along with his wife and three kids, were one of the first Golden Visa holders to fly back to the UAE from Karachi since the suspension on incoming scheduled passenger flights from Pakistan went into effect in May.
He travelled in the business class of the Gulf Air plane, even though he had paid only for economy class seats at Dh2,000 per ticket for a one-way flight from Karachi to Dubai.
The flight also had two more healthcare workers apart from Dr Nadir’s family, bringing the total number of passengers to seven.
“We took the risk and it paid off, thanks to the privilege and honour granted to us by the UAE government in the form of Golden Visa,” said his wife Dr Rabbia Khan, a breast and general surgeon at Mediclinic City Hospital, who was accompanied by their three children aged 3-6 years.
Although the seven passengers were allowed to choose their seats in the 300-seater aircraft, they were not allowed to move around to other seats after the plane took off, Dr Nadir told Khaleej Times.
The doctor family, who had flown to Karachi at the end of June, returned to Dubai on July 20 during the Eid break.
Calling it a lifetime experience, Dr Nadir said: “This amazing trip from Karachi to Dubai has shown how powerful UAE authorities are and how privileged my family and I are to get VIP treatment due to our Golden Visa status.”
Explaining the challenging part of the trip, Dr Nadir said: “It was hard to get tickets from Pakistan to UAE as very few flights are operating due to the flight suspension. The second challenge was that since no passenger had flown from Karachi to Dubai after the restrictions came into effect on May 12, the Pakistani authorities were a bit unsure about the procedures. Even after all the online approvals, the final approval for us to board the flight had to be taken at the time of check-in at Karachi International airport, so that kept us on tenterhooks.”
Dr Nadir added that at the check-in counter at Karachi airport, the airline staff makes one final call to Dubai immigration authorities to reconfirm if the particular passenger was a Golden Visa holder and if he or she can be allowed to board the flight. Only after the final go-ahead from UAE authorities is the passenger allowed to board the flight.
How Golden Visa holders can book tickets from home country to UAE
Explaining the process of returning from a restricted country to the UAE using a Golden Visa, Dr Nadir said to travel from a Covid red-list country to the UAE was difficult, but Golden Visas made the process easy.
“Since only a few flights are operating between Pakistan and UAE, I first checked which airlines were available. I found that Emirates, Gulf Air and PIA flights were available, so I wrote an email to all the three airlines with my Golden Visa details, passport details, along with the GDRFA approval that I took, and requested them to help me return back to the UAE.”
Out of the three, Dr Nadir said Gulf Air was the first to revert (in about four days), listing their flight schedule so he could choose the day and time of his choice. He then went ahead and selected his dates and the airline sent him his tickets after he made the payment online.
The last step, he noted, was at the Karachi airport when authorities rang up their counterparts at Dubai immigration for the final approval.
Apart from these, all the other Covid protocols are the same as previously mandated, Dr Nadir said. These include a valid PCR test within 48 hours of boarding the flight and filling up a consent form for mandatory quarantine in case a passenger tests positive, among others.
Dr Nadir added that the procedures at Dubai International Airport were a breeze. He and his family were able to exit the airport and were on their home in less than an hour after landing. “I was pleasantly surprised that our PCR test results from Dubai Airport came even before we reached home from the airport!” he exclaimed.
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