Dubai’s new family visa rule to hit Keralites hard

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Unmarried NRKs not eligible to sponsor family will struggle to find life partners.

The Dubai Government’s decision to hike the minimum individual salary for expatriates to obtain residence visa for family has dashed the hopes of thousands of women in Kerala to live with their husbands.

The rule revised recently may also affect marriage prospects of unmarried men working in the emirate. A sizeable number of Keralites currently working abroad are unmarried. A census conducted by the Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (Norka) Department showed that out of 1.6 million Keralites working overseas, 652,045 are in the age group between 18 and 34.

The steep hike in the eligibility level from Dh4,000 to Dh10,000 for expatriates without accommodation and from Dh3,000 to Dh9,000 for those with accommodation may make it difficult for migrants below this salary to find partners since the new generation girls are not prepared to live the life of separation.

The new rule may also render majority of the married Keralites ineligible to take their families with them since they are low-paid workers. As per the Norka door-to-door census, out of 507,087 Keralites working in UAE, 293,865 are workers, 59,000 salesman and 55,817 drivers, who may not meet the new criteria.

Out of the remaining 1,523 are doctors, 19,962 nurses, 18,065 engineers, 4,622 bank employees, 11,117 IT professionals, 3,475 teachers, 8,470 managers and 31,172 business people.

The census shows that as many as 317,847 Keralites are living in the UAE separated from their spouses and children. The number of people living with their families in the UAE, as per the census, is 92,752. Incidentally, the UAE accounts for the highest number of Keralites working overseas.

The survey found that 35% of the 1.6 million Keralites working abroad is in the UAE. The Gulf countries account for 90 per cent of overseas Keralites. About 45% of the NRKs are above the age of 35. The number of people in the age group between 35 and 44 is 461,118; 45 and 54 age group is 253,089 and 55 and 64 age group is 57,145.

The revised rule may have its ripples in Kerala since women who spend years separated from their husbands have been facing several mental and physical problems. In several cases, the prolonged separation has also been leading to breakups of families and divorces.

A migration study by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) has revealed loneliness as the most serious problem wives of migrants face. This is followed by sexual deprivation, burden of added responsibilities and mental and physical pressures.

A psychiatrist practicing at Varkala, a major Gulf pocket in Kerala, says that a large number of wives whose husbands are working in the Gulf have been complaining of mild depression and hypochondriac tendencies. This, he says, is the result of prolonged separation from their husbands.

Interestingly, the CDS study showed that nearly 60 per cent wanted their husbands to return. The remaining 40 per cent belong to poor families that find survival difficult without the income from the migrant.

The study involved 891 women from eight of the 14 districts. For women below 30 years (55 per cent), loneliness topped the list. Women above 40, though small in number, also named loneliness as a major problem. The study noted that a large number of women were left alone by their migrant husbands within a few days after marriage.

The study noted that one million married women in the state were living away from their husbands. The average age of the “Gulf wives” was 20.5 years, while that of the men 27.5 years. Interestingly, these women were more qualified than the rest of the women in the state, many even better educated than their spouses.

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