1 July 2022
A travel ban prohibits an individual from entering, re-entering or leaving the country until the grounds for issuing the travel ban have been dismissed. Although the UAE does not have an entire legislative framework governing the travel ban system, Article 94 of Federal Law No. 6 of 1973 concerning immigration and residence, and its executive regulations (as amended by the Ministerial Decree No. 83 of 2002) aims to provide some clarity on the grounds for the imposition and enforcement of travel bans. Pursuant to Article 94, a travel ban may be imposed for several reasons including breach of immigration laws, unpaid debts, criminal offences and personal affairs. This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of travel bans issued as a result of a criminal offence.
A travel ban is not to be confused with an arrest warrant. The aim of an arrest warrant is to detain an individual accused of committing a crime for the purpose of conducting a criminal investigation or execution of a court judgment, whereas the aim of a travel ban is to prohibit such an individual from entering or leaving the country for the purpose of protecting public or private interests. Imposing a travel ban does not necessitate an automatic arrest and detention. If the ban has not been granted on the grounds of committing a crime, the accused individual will only be prohibited from either entering or exiting the country. Alternatively, if an arrest warrant has been issued, a travel ban is automatically issued until the investigation has come to an end or the court has made a judgment.
Furthermore, if an individual in the UAE is under investigation for committing a criminal offense, including but not limited to theft, fraud, possession of illegal drugs, homicide or rape, an automatic travel ban is issued by virtue of Article 94 of the executive regulations of the Federal Law No. 6 of 1973 concerning immigration and residence. A travel ban may also be issued as a result of commercial or civil transactions that necessitate a criminal penalty, such as cases involving bounced cheques, however, a police complaint must be filed by the beneficiary of the bounced cheque in order to start the investigation and issue a travel ban on the accused individual.
Travel bans based on a criminal offence are imposed by the police, the public prosecution or the court and shall remain enforceable until such time that the investigation is complete, a judgment of the case has been issued, or the sentence granted to the individual for the crime has expired. In limited situations, if the criminal case is ongoing, the accused may request the court to grant bail, however, it should be noted that the bail only pertains to being released from police custody, the accused will not be allowed to travel until such time that the final judgment has been issued.
In certain circumstances, an enforced travel ban may contradict a deportation order issued by the relevant authorities when an expat is considered a threat to the public health or public order of the country. If such a situation arises, Article 329 of the Civil Procedures Code provides that a special committee headed by a competent judge must be formed to settle the matter.
Although there are no official UAE government portals that provide a service relating to checking whether a travel ban has been imposed, the Dubai Police has recently launched a free online service enabling individuals to check their travel ban status if the travel ban has been issued on grounds of bounced cheques and other financial matters. If there is uncertainty on whether the grounds for the enforcement of the travel ban are limited to bounced cheque cases, the status of the travel ban will have to be checked personally at the Dubai Police Department. Alternatively, the status of the travel ban may be checked by an attorney of the individual provided that the attorney has the individual’s passport copy and an effective power of attorney.