Monday, February 19, 2024

OFW Guide to Kish Island Survival

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So you decided to embark on finding your dream job in Dubai via shortcut by paying for your visit visa/tourist visa for one month that can be extended for another month or get a more expensive tourist visa to last for 3 months.

Finding job in Dubai can be easy if you are equipped with talent, experience and skills. But if you are picky on jobs and going for a bigger salary, most likely you will not get it in your first month or in second month of your stay, so get ready to exit out of UAE when your visa expires after 2 months, and the most popular exit point apart from being cheap is Kish Island, a tourism destination in Iran, just 346 kms from Dubai.

During my visit visa days in UAE in 2004, I was looking for a job related to my work and experience so I waited for the right job and extended my visa for 3 months from July to September. On my third month, the company that I wanted to join with has offered me a contract but my visit visa is expiring within the week.

The human resources staff gave me an option to exit to Kish Island or pay the visa change from visit to employment without going out. I opted for the last choice as I want to start working immediately and I don’t want to risk staying in Kish Island as I heard lots of stories from my Pinoy housemates who went there for so many times. But another reason why I don’t like to travel is due to the fact that I don’t have the budget for plane ticket and paying for the hotel or dormitory stay while in the island.

At least the charges of paying for the non-exit will be deducted from my salary for 3-4 months, so it is not a heavy burden taken immediately off my pocket.

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I don’t have anything against those OFW’s exiting in Kish Island, as I really want to explore the place but I want to do it when I am already established in my job. So when my room-mate was going for an exit, I and another friend joined him to tour the prime destination of local tourism in Iran.

As expected, immigration officials thought that we are all exiting Kish for visa change. Until I showed my passport
with employment visa stamped on it.

The Kish Air was filled by 95% Kabayans and my flight seatmate was asking if I am going to join their boarding dormitory that is famous to Filipinos. I told him that I will be staying in a hotel and I am in Kish for a tour, he just stopped talking as if I am making up story, make sense since I think there are very few Filipinos who will visit Kish for a tour.

But why not? I googled the place and there are a lot of tourist attractions such as underground city and the beaches. My friend have also met his friends that are billeted at one of the famous Pinoy dorms, so we accompanied him to pay a visit that night.

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We saw a two storey apartment managed by a Filipino, where the ground floor living room was transformed into a big room filled with more than 20 folding beds. The second floor has two rooms each filled with 4 double deck beds. The average number of stay-in guests could be between 20 to 30 at one time. But since some occupants only stay for 2-4 days, people come and go and the space are not maximized.


It is really cramped and we understood their reason. To survive in Kish Island, you need to save your money as you don’t know when your employment visa will arrive. A 50 Dirhams (P550) per day is economical that our room rate in a local hotel at 200 Dirhams (P2,600) per night. The food is also prepared by the Pinoy caretaker and will cost you another 20 Dirhams in the dorm.

On an average day, you need at least 100 Dirhams per day to survive in Kish Island, this is on top of the Kish Visit Visa that you need to pay and renew every month. As a Filipino who is there just to change for visa and wait for the employment visa, the island has nothing to offer if you are penniless but to stay at the dorm.

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Those who don’t have budget for meals are being shared by others who has budget, but not for long. They just stay at the room or sitting on the rocks at the beachfront and counting the waves to waste the time and hope that the next day will be their luckiest to receive their long awaited visa.

Other fly-by-night employers often neglect workers and don’t get back at them to update the status of their employment visa, so it is a common sight to see Pinoys wandering in the streets, on the beaches, in public parks and commercial centers, hoping they can meet good Samaritan who will recruit them back to Dubai and give them real employment visa.

Others have given up on that hope. We have been told that there are even some Pinoys who lost their sanity due to depression and homesickness. Some unscrupulous employers hire them to work using their visit visas and let them exit when it expired and promised them to send the working visa that went unfulfilled.

You may encounter some of them in the beachfront talking to themselves while walking, or staring at nothing while sitting in a bench.

I knew some colleagues who exited in Kish Island and brought the CV’s of Filipinos stranded in Kish as their employers abandoned them. Some of these Kabayans got lucky as they were hired upon recommendation of those Pinoys who wanted to help them. But if other Filipinos find it depressing and difficult to be in Kish Island, there are some kababayans who do it with flying colors, as if flying to Kish every month or every 2 -3 months is just going to Cebu from Manila. These are professional freelancers and part-timers as they don’t want to be tied up for 3 years contract for a working visa with one employer.

These people will work anytime, any days, on call and some companies’ wants them so they can utilized the period of their visa without them to pay for their working visa which is costly. Although this is illegal, people can still get away with this setup. I knew some Kabayans that has been in UAE for the last 10-15 years with just a visit visa as they will work for 1-3 months and stay in Kish for a month and will get anew for another 3 month visit visa. They will make money for a lot of part time jobs, from reception work, sales, office boy, warehouseman, cleaning houses, cleaning cars, cook for someone, etc. They are paid hourly or daily, and they will save a budget for their next exit to Kish.

Other Filipinas who find it difficult to survive in Kish has even agreed to marry local Iranis and stay in the island for good. Others opted for discreet prostitution because it is a Muslim country after all. The island is so strict on women that they are not allowed to roam without headscarf and long dresses. Kish is not only crowded by Pinoys but other nationalities as well such are Arabs, Africans and other Asians.

There are territorial areas for Pinoys and other nationalities in terms of dormitory and boarding house but often they are going to cross path in local shisha shops and commercial centers. There have been recorded crimes committed by other nationalities to Filipinos due to cultural rifts or gestures deemed as offensive.

For those who are a jobless in the Philippines and your relative sponsored you for a visit visa to Dubai, you should grab the next measly jobs worth 1,500-2,000-Dirhams (roughly P18,000o to P24,500) which I guess a better package than being a PAL (shorten for Palamunin) at home. These jobs are usually cleaners, gasoline boy/girl, office boy/girl that are readily available and will surely give an employment visa. This is enough for you to get a job on your first month and you don’t need to exit longer to Kish Island for another visit Visa.

But for those professionals with skills and experience, you all have the right to wait for the best job offer and experience to survive in Kish. After all, the shortcut way to abroad using a visit visa is not fun at all, with all the hardships and difficulties of finding work under a 50deg-temperature plus the time lost being away from family. If you don’t have a relative in UAE, it is not advisable to go using a visit visa, where some Filipinos are subjected to abuse and not being protected by the consulate since you are not considered as a registered OFW.

It is better to do it the legal way through POEA-accredited job agencies. Even the UAE Consulate has no exact numbers of Filipinos on visit visa and those existing in Kish Islands. The problem of the Pinoys stranded in Kish was tackled by the government a lot of times and the last one was in early part of 2014.

Back in 2007, Sandra Cam, a controversial personality during the Arroyo administration being in a witness protection program against corruption, has visited Dubai and learned the plight of the Filipinos in Kish where she sponsored the flights and visit visas of some stranded OFWs according to a friend of my colleague who happened to be there.

At the moment, there have been a lot of options than just Kish Island for a visa change. Some towns in the neighboring country Oman is offering exit package including bus fee, visa fee and accommodation that is cheaper than Kish. The numbers of Pinoys who exit in Kish has dwindled.

About the Author

ekim_t2Ekim Toperi, is a Global Nomad, a 10-year Dubai veteran, has traveled to Mediterranean and Russian Territory for a cultural and winter experiment. A civil engineer and a passionate Artist & Writer. A New Hero Awardee of BFFI, a Word-With-Friends Addict, a tennis enthusiast and freedom lover..

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  1. sa mga kabayan natin sa pinas huwag tayong magalit sa gobyerno natin kung strikto sila sa immigration kasi ganito ang karaniwang nangyayari..dumaan tayo sa legal process para di mapahamak at di masayang ang pinaghirapan na pera na gagamitin sa pag iibang bansa..goodluck po lagi and godbless..thumbs up po sa author and more power..

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