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Erbil to resume Syrian residency renewals and cancel fines

Erbil indicated it would again allow Syrians to renew their residency permits without conditions on Tuesday, reversing a prohibitive social security registration requirement and bringing relief after weeks of uncertainty.

4 June 2024

HASAKAH — The government in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) indicated that it would once more allow Syrians in the autonomous area to renew their residency permits without conditions on Tuesday, reversing a prohibitive social security registration requirement circulated late last month. 

The decision came two months after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) stopped accepting residency renewal applications, coinciding with an April 4 decision to stop granting entry visas to most Syrian passport holders. 

“There are internal directives within the Department of Residency” to accept renewal applications from Syrians, Omar Agha, a lawyer based in Erbil, told Syria Direct by phone. The department is set to “start receiving applications this coming Saturday,” he added, noting that an official decision has yet to be publicly issued.

The latest directives also cancel fines imposed on Syrians whose residency expired since March 28, the lawyer added. The KRG levies a daily fee of 20,000 Iraqi dinars (IQD) (around $14) for overstaying an expired residency permit. 

Late last month, previous directives by Erbil required Syrians wishing to renew their residency permits to first register with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security through their employers. 

The now-canceled requirement was prohibitive for many Syrians, as they could only register with social security if their workplace maintained a ratio of 75 percent local employees to 25 percent foreign workers. 

Syrians who wish to register with social security may still do so, but are not required to, Agha explained. “It is no longer mandatory according to the new directives,” he said.

As word spread that Syrians could once more renew their residency permits, local tourism and travel companies—through which the applications are submitted–quickly began to advertise their services on social media.

Samer Ali (a pseudonym), a 23-year-old Syrian from Hama city who has lived in Erbil for two years, reached out to a local tourism company as soon as he learned of the new directives on Tuesday. Ali was told he could renew his residency permit, which expired on May 23, starting next week, he told Syria Direct

The company asked Ali to bring his passport, old residency permit and a personal photo in order to renew his residency for $650, he said, expressing relief and happiness. 

There are more than 254,000 registered refugees currently living in the KRI, according to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) figures. 

This report was originally published in Arabic and translated into English by Mateo Nelson. 

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