Oh my! My visa is up for renewal. Do you know what that means? It means that I have lived in the UAE for three years. When moving here, I never thought I would have to renew my visa because I never intended to stay longer than my three year contract. Then I got married and life changed. Going back the US without the prospect of a stable job feels a bit scarier with a gaggle of children than it would have before.
So, what was the process? I am going to tell you but keep in mind that things could be different for you. In fact, there is a good chance that it would be different for you because I think it depends on who is sponsoring you, plus things seem to change daily.
First, go get your medical exam at the Disease Prevention and Screening Center across from Al Ain Hospital. Bring a copy of your passport and visa. Anyone you sponsor over 18 years old also needs to have an exam. You will get a blood test for HIV and an x-ray for TB. Some professions also require tests for hepatitis B, syphilis, and pregnancy. The fee is 250aed. Now depending on what time you go, you may want to pay extra to get expedited through the line. For an additional 100aed, you can be on the ‘fast track’ or for an additional 250aed, you can be a ‘VIP’. Now, when I went, at about 12:30 on a Sunday, there was only 3 people ahead of me in line. I just paid the regular fee and was out within 30 minutes. However, a few of my friends went in the morning and said it was packed – well worth the VIP fee. I think I just got lucky. After the exam, they will give you a little white card. Hang onto that and in about 48 hours (less if you are a VIP), you can go back to the center to pick up your results.
While you are waiting for these results, you can go to any typing center. I have had good experiences at the one just to the right of Jimi mall in the Al Safa building. I go to the one on the left. I think the one on the right is for different purposes. Tell the typing center that you need to renew your Emirates ID card. Bring your passport/visa. The fee is 100aed for each year plus a 40aed typing fee. So, if you are getting a three year visa issued, you will pay 340aed. If you are renewing for children under 15, you also need to bring their original birth certificate or their father’s passport. This isn’t required if they are over 15.
However, since my daughter is now over 15, I had to take her to the Emirates ID authority (also near Jimi mall) and get her fingerprinted. I am not sure if this has to happen each year or just once. I didn’t have to be fingerprinted but some of my coworkers did. I am not sure how that is determined.
After you have collected the medical test results, proceed to your sponsor to submit everything. At least this is how it worked at with the university. I handed over my passport, medical test, Emirates ID typing center papers, copy of my passport and visa. Additionally, for anyone that you are sponsoring (child/spouse) you need to include a “to whom it may concern letter” that includes your salary.
After about a week, I was notified to pick up my daughter’s stuff. I guess they submitted it to someone and did something to it? I don’t know. In any case, I picked back up her packet of information and had to take it to the immigration office (across from Jimi mall), which is now called the Department of Residence & Foreigners Affairs.
At the immigration office, things went a little more as expected; as in confusing which is the norm when doing most things around here. There was nobody at the counter giving out ticket numbers when I got there, so eventually a small group of people started crowding together getting frustrated. After a few minutes, a man got back in the booth. Apparently he had been out on a smoke break. As soon as he returned, the group of people started crowding him for a ticket number. A woman, fully clad in an abaya, started yelling at the man in Arabic. It took me a minute to realize that she was yelling at him on my behalf. She was upset that he had started helping the men in the group before me even though I had arrived first.
After waiting for about 20 minutes for my number to be called (and numbers were only being called in Arabic and not shown on the board, so it was 20 minutes of really really really trying to focus on remembering my Arabic numbers), I hand all my daughter’s paperwork to the man and he tells me that I am in the wrong area.
I need to go see Mr Ahmed.
Where is Mr Ahmed?
Over there. (wild hand gesture)
Over there. (more wild hand gestures)
No, over there. (more wild hand gestures)
(sigh of frustration) Oh okay thank you so very much.
So, I went ‘over there’ or so I thought. The man ‘over there’ had no idea what I wanted. Then a man in a kandura came over to me and offered to help. He took me back to the other counter, made the guy explain to him in Arabic, and then proceeded to help me find Mr Ahmed ‘over there-over there’ (opposed to merely over-there). As I was waiting for Mr Ahmed to finish with the woman he was currently helping, the kandura man came back over to me. He told me that I should stand closer to the counter. If I don’t, other people will push their way in before me. He told me that I will learn that is the way it works around here. This made me smile. I knew he was right. I knew that people would do exactly that and yet, even after three years, I still have a difficult time adapting to their way of doing things here. I can’t totally lose my culturally ingrained American way of doing things. It would have felt rude and like I was invading their privacy. I must say that abaya woman and kandura man made my trip to the immigration office a better experience than it would have been without them.
Mr Ahmed was able to give me the new visa for my daughter’s passport and I was on my way. The last step came about a week later. The university had me go pick up my passport with the new visa already inside and my old visa with a cancellation stamp.
Khallas. Kassandra and I are legal for the next three years. At least I won’t need to go through this process ever again. Right? There is no way I am staying longer than three more years. Wallah.