This is a humanitarian approach from the government to protect expatriate women in such situations.

Women expats in the UAE, who are under the sponsorship of their husbands while going through a divorce can now heave a sigh of relief, thanks to the one-year visa extension that is now granted to divorcees, widows, and their children.

Legal consultants in the UAE told Khaleej Times that husbands, as sponsors, will “no longer be able to misuse their power over visa control against their wives”.

“This is a humanitarian approach from the government to protect expatriate women in such situations. This move is in the best interest of women and children, and clearly aims to protect them,” said Hassan El Heis, legal consultant at Al Rowaad Advocates.

El Heis pointed out that some husbands abuse their power as a sponsor to cancel the visa of their spouse, or to use it as a leverage to negotiate financial terms or even child custody during divorce.

He added that the one-year extension on visa gives divorcees independence and more advantage while negotiating with their husbands.

“Time has always been a crucial factor. This is important in the financial dispute or custody dispute. But now, this pressure has been removed and gives women relief.”

Smriti Ganotra, legal consultant at STA Law Firm, also hailed such a humanitarian step by the UAE.

She said: “This is a very important move forward for the rights of women.

“Having a one-year visa extension gives women enough time and opportunity to find another job and better the situation they are in.”

Ganotra said she receives around 50 to 80 divorce cases each year and she has seen many of the men arm-twisting their wives using the sponsorship power.

“This reform will provide women with more choices of what they want to do, because many cannot simply pack up and leave the country after divorce – they have their houses here and their kids in schools.”

Diji S., a divorcee with two children in Abu Dhabi, told Khaleej Times that the new visa reform means other women in the UAE will no longer have to go through the same turmoil that she went through eight years ago when her husband abruptly cancelled not only her visa, but also that of her children.

“He had complete control to cancel all our visas. I struggled a lot at that point and considering the fact that I couldn’t take my own visa and support my kids, I had to go back to my country, then apply for a new visa and return,” said Diji, who was born and raised in the UAE.

“The new rule will therefore really help women make the decisions they want, without having to worry about additional responsibilities and uncertainties of getting a visa.”