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Hijrah: 6 Reasons why border runs is nOT the way to go

Hijrah visa runs

I’m sure we can all agree that one of the most challenging aspects of making hijrah is the residency and paperwork side of things.

While obtaining residency entails its share of challenges, the idea of visa runs may seem enticing as an ‘easier route‘. If you’re contemplating relying solely on visa runs, I’m here to stop you on your tracks with a BIG. FAT. RED. STOP sign.

Please don’t.

As someone who had no choice but to do visa runs for awhile, take my word for it: it’s FAR from a practical long-term solution.

Saying that it’s stressful is an understatement. After awhile, you feel… illegal. Alien.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into six serious reasons why it’s worth reconsidering this approach.

6 Reasons why visa runs is not a long term solution

If you’ve read my story, you’d probably read that I initially planned to make hijrah to Morocco from the UK. However, in the process of me closing up stuff in Birmingham, I got proposed to from someone in the UAE, and so my hijrah destination changed (soubhanallah, how you plan and how Allah has a different plan for you).

While I wouldn’t have to worry about visas in Morocco, given my Moroccan citizenship, in the UAE it was different – I was a total foreigner, like everyone else who wasn’t a local. Due to my husband’s job title at the time, I couldn’t be sponsored under his visa so we had to do visa runs for awhile.

It was okay the first few times. If anything, it felt like an adventure; a field trip.

We’d travel from Sharjah by car to the Oman border in Ras Al Khaimah at night. Sometimes, we’d stop by a restaurant and get laham mandi and some karak.

However, gradually, it no longer felt fun… we could feel the trip costs starting to weigh up, and the stress of ‘how many days left until our next visa run’ would become a heavy burden on our minds. Sometimes we’d miscalculate and end up with unexpected fines.

Anyway, I’ve compiled 6 reasons to why you shouldn’t rely on visa runs long term, hoping to save you from a big regret down the line.

#1 The limit to what you can do in the country

Without residency, there’s a limit on what you can do in the country. For example, in the UAE you can’t:

  • Rent a property long-term
  • Install Wi-fi
  • Open a bank account
  • Sign up for a driving license

A sister also mentioned she faced similar limitations when she went to Saudi as a visitor.

While I’m not entirely certain about the limitations you’ll face in Morocco, my brother mentioned that as a foreigner opening a bank account, you can only open a convertible account.

Also, in Morocco, there’s an option to apply for Moroccan nationality after residing there for five years.

Now, I haven’t personally known anyone who has gone through the process of obtaining citizenship. However, according to official sources I’ve read, it is indeed possible.

But here’s the catch: if you’ve been living in Morocco on visa runs, you’ve never truly ‘lived’ there because you were never officially a resident.

And what’s the benefit of citizenship? Well, for starters, you’ll never have to worry about residency and visa runs ever again!

Plus, you gain access to privileges that locals enjoy, such as purchasing agricultural land for farming if that’s something you’re interested in pursuing.

#2 Your calendar looks stressful

“Sorry, we can’t come that day. We have a visa run.”

Sometimes, the visa run days would clash with other events happening with our family and friends.

We’ve had several instances where we needed to do the visa runs earlier to attend a family gathering or wedding.

At times, we even had to do the visa runs a week earlier. This shortened our tourist visa significantly and sped up our next visa run.

And then looking at the calendar and counting the days for our next visa run right after completing the previous one. It just felt like a brief period of staying in the country before having to leave and come back.

It wasn’t a nice feeling.

#3 Suspicions and cold treatment from border officers

We haven’t experienced it ourselves, but we’ve heard stories from our family friends; both in the UAE and Morocco.

A few of the sisters in the community (UAE) told us when they went an officer mentioned a potential change in rules disallowing frequent visa runs.

Although no such rules existed, the border officers’ remarks may have stemmed from frustration or unwillingness to work that day – I’m not sure.

Nevertheless, that weighed on them and they warned the rest of the people that were doing visa runs.

In Morocco, I’ve heard border officers would notice if you’re someone who’re notorious doing visa runs. It’s not uncommon for them to grow suspicious and start asking interrogative questions.

#4 The cost pile up over time

The costs associated with visa runs can vary significantly depending on individual circumstances.

Do you need to rent a car for the journey?

Consider the distance between your residence and the border—this can affect travel expenses.

Will you require overnight accommodation during your trip?

Factor in the number of family members participating in the visa runs.

Moreover, in the UAE, there are fees involved on both sides of the border crossing: both in the UAE and Oman.

Additionally, expenses such as petrol and overall travel costs add up over time. At first, the expenses might seem manageable, but when the months are tough it can seem like a burden.

When we first started doing visa runs, it was just me. Now, with a family of five, if all of us were to participate, the costs would multiply significantly.

Furthermore, in the UAE, walking across the border is no longer an option. If you’re arranging transportation for someone else, you’ll need to cover their exit and entry fees as well.

In unforeseen circumstances like another Covid outbreak, additional expenses such as PCR tests can further strain the budget—especially for larger families.

#5 Mistakes and miscalculation happen

It’s something we’ve experienced firsthand, along with others we know. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we’d end up staying longer than planned due to miscalculations.

The stress that comes with these situations is real, and it brings unexpected expenses along with it.

#6 It brings the sense of instability and vulnerability

As time passed doing visa runs in the UAE, my whole world felt increasingly unstable. The visa runs brought about immense stress, leaving me with a persistent feeling of being out of place.

I even found myself longing for England at times, missing the sense of security and legality I felt while living there.

As you begin depending on visa runs, during the early stages of adaptation, you might not fully understand the adverse effects of it.

However, as you persist with these runs and become more accustomed to the routine, the difficulties and consequences of this method slowly become clearer.

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Yes, sometimes you may need to stick to border runs for awhile

I’m not suggesting you should never resort to visa runs, but my advice is to avoid planning and relying on them as a long-term solution.

There may be times when starting with visa runs is necessary while you get your requirements in order. Situations may also arise where obtaining residency proves challenging or temporarily unattainable.

Admittedly, obtaining residency can be difficult. I know, because my family and I have been there, and we know many people who struggle with it —whether due to financial constraints, meeting requirements, or bureaucratic hurdles. However, if you can, it’s advisable to prioritise obtaining residency as soon as possible.

Make dua, increase in istighfaar, be sincere, be persistent and remain positive.

In life, the easier choice may sometimes seem appealing, but it doesn’t always translate to the best long-term decision.

As for the best visual example I could provdide:

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