11. Visa run

The UAE is a super place.  Yes it is.  No really, there are more positives than negatives.  It’s known for its oil, its fantastic weather and its wonderfully tall buildings, but it is not known for its urgency when it comes to administrative procedures.  One of the trickiest issues that people face when they first get here is getting their residency visas sorted.  It is a facet that is completely beyond your control yet totally your fault if it goes wrong.

When I first came here it took a while for my residency to be processed, a long while.  I wont say how long because it may compromise my position but there were some squeaky bum moments for sure.  In order to avoid the moniker of “illegal immigrant” I had to do the visa run.  This meant that I had to go to Dubai airport; catch a plane to Muscat,Oman, sit alone at a bar for 5 hours getting drunk and then fly back to Dubai again.  I had to do this twice before my residency was completed.  I even accidentally went to the airport on the wrong day and managed to get to Oman without a valid ticket!  It was infuriating since it was totally out of both mine and the companies hands.

Recently a friend came to stay with us for 2 months; this meant that at the halfway point we were going to have to extend his visit visa.  Nowadays you can cross the border in a car, and this is something we have had to do for other friends in the past.  Dropping them off and watching them walk through the fence like it was a hostage exchange.  It’s perfectly legal but such a drag.  So the other option is to pay a visit to the immigration office.

I took my friend to the Ministry of Interior with our companies PRO.  The man behind the desk was very helpful.  After waiting in the line for only 3

WANTED: for hindering efficiency

hours he told us that there was nothing we could do unless we had some documents that we weren’t sure even existed and continued to throw birds at things on his iPad.  Irate and slightly confused we agreed that we would go back the following day to try again.  We did so and spoke to another helpful man who made no mention of any documents but implied that it was early in the afternoon and therefore wasn’t enough time for him to be bothered to do anything.  He did say however that our PRO could try tomorrow, and promptly went back to playing Angry Birds.

On the third day victory was finally achieved.  Our PRO took my friends passport and within a matter of minutes it had been stamped and extended, no documents, no questions, and no angry birds.  I still find it mad that you can take anybodies passport and get it extended without them being there.  How did the person behind the desk know that the passport wasn’t stolen?  Or counterfeit?  What were these “documents” for that we didn’t seem to need?  How is it you are told three different things by three different people on three different days who all work within three yards of each other?  To speculate is to waste time.

Today the blog simply offers peace of mind to those fretting about the matter.  It is very easy to stress about visa expiration and being arrested and water-boarded by the CIA or being thrown in prison for a 100 years but my message is simply “don’t”.  Don’t worry at all.  If you are waiting for your residency visa then there is no law against hopping over the border and back as many times as you need to.  If you are visiting for a couple of months so what, there is no law against that either.  If you don’t want to drive to the border then by all means pop along to those delightful workaholics at the Ministry of Interior and they will legalise you in a jiffy.

Well, if they’ve left their iPads at home they will.

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