Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The saga of the Residence Visa

Telling the saga of applying for Mrs Seabee's Residence Visa, I was encouraged to Blog it. So here it is - it's long, but then it was a long story...

Background: As we bought property in Dubai, I’m sponsored for a Residence Visa by Emaar, the Master Developer. However, they can only sponsor one person even if the property is in joint names. So I have apply to sponsor Mrs Seabee for her residence visa. I could do it all through Emaar but they’ll charge me an extortionate Dh5,000 so we decided to do it ourselves.

Due to the death of the then Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum, there was a mourning period when everything was closed. The mourning period ran straight into the Eid al Adha public holiday, so Immigration was closed for about a fortnight.

Before those events we’d been at Immigration for most of a day getting the right forms, getting them typed in Arabic and running out of time. As it turned out, when I was asking questions I stumbled across someone who later turned out to be invaluable, Major (I think) Ali Mullullah. We planned to go back early the next morning, but that was the morning Sheikh Maktoum’s death was announced. Murphy’s Law.

So it was off to Immigration the first day they opened.

Signage is a little vague, to say the least, and is meaningless anyway. Ignore what the signs above the counters say because they all do everything. I asked a uniformed officer where to go and he waved his hand around and said “Any counter”. So I went to the one with the shortest queue. Mistake. I’d picked the counter with the very pleasant but totally disinterested lady behind it. She wished she was anywhere else but behind the counter and went walkabout quite a lot.

After an hour and a half it got to be my turn. She rifled through the application papers and wanted my employment contract. I’m probably the first person without such a thing to apply to sponsor his wife, so I was in a black hole. Much waving of my application in the air and Arabic conversation with the Lieutenant beside her. The Emirati man next to me spoke to her in Arabic and from his hand gestures I took it he was telling her to just get on with it and process it.

Finally the Lieutenant want to find my old friend Major Ali Mullulah, who was overseeing the Ladies Only counter. More muttering, then he called me to come over. That didn’t go down well with the ladies who’d been queuing for hours, a man pushing and squeezing through them to the counter. I finally got there, being careful to keep my hands well in view so as not to be accused of indecent assault.

Major Mullulah told me they could process the application if I paid a deposit of Dh10,000. I actually already knew I had to do that, so I had the cash in my wallet.
“Any problem?” asked the major.
“No problem. Where do I pay?”
“Counter 20.”
“Then I come back?”
“Yes, then come back.”

Off through hundreds of equally confused people and found Counter 20. Oh good, only fifteen people in the queue. Well, that doesn’t count all those who simply pushed their way to the front to shout questions while waving papers about. I eventually arrived at the front of the queue and told the man, this one is a suit and tie, that I was to pay him Dh10,000.

“Next counter.”

Bugger!

Pushed my way out and joined the back of a queue with only a dozen people in it…plus the usual pushers and shovers. But, good news, only ten minutes later I was paying my money over, plus an unexplained additional Dh5.

Back to my original counter, but the lieutenant had also gone walkabout. Still, after only five minutes or so and he came back, did something on his computer and pushed the application to the disinterested lady. She was busy on another application, but after he tapped my papers a few times she got around to it. Some tapping on the computer, zapping it on the laser light, scrutiny of the papers, then: “Your wife outside UAE?”
“No, here on a visit visa.”
Papers thrust back at me.
“You must pay Dh500 to change visa.”
“OK. Where do I pay?”
“Same counter.”

Back to Counter 19, down to half a dozen in the queue and soon it was my turn at the front.
“I have to pay you Dh500.”
“Five hundred and five.” Ah, the mysterious five again.
Bugger again. I don’t have anything smaller than Dh100 notes to pay the extra five dirhams.
“No change” he says, pushing everything back to me.

Off I go through the throng yet again to find Mrs Seabee. She’s disappeared, having given up standing outside in the sandstorm, as has everyone else who’s waiting, so the crowd is double the usual chaos. Eventually I find her in another building, I take all her small notes, plough my way back to other building, only getting lost once on the way, and find Counter 19. Two people in the queue! So I quickly pay my Dh505, take the receipt and the papers back yet again to the lieutenant. He’s there doing very little, takes my papers…and hands me Mrs Seabee's interim residence visa! Blimey!

“Now you go to section 15 with original passport for stamping.”
“What about the medical?”
“After. Go now to section 15 for stamping.”

Having gone through this process myself, albeit with all this running around being done by my sponsor, I know that after getting the interim visa you go for a medical, take the ‘all-clear’ results back to Immigration with your passport and they stamp the Residence Visa in it.

So I wander around looking for Section 15, go out into the sandstorm and search other buildings, ask three Information counter people and they each tell me something different.

I find myself in the building that Mrs Seabee’s sheltering in. Explain the situation, we wander a little before finding another lieutenant standing around being helpful. I explain and ask what I do next and where do I do it. He says Section 15 for stamping. I ask about the medical. He says “After stamping. No problem. This visa (the interim one) is valid for two months. First you go for stamping.”

OK, we wander in the general direction he gave us and suddenly eagle-eyed Mrs Seabee notices 'Section 15' written on a dilapidated building the other side of the courtyard. Off into the sandstorm once again, but we find a counter, a short queue and within ten minutes we’re being dealt with.

The lady stamps the interim visa and wants $505. OK, now we work it out. We paid once to have her visit visa changed to something else when I put the application in, now we have the interim visa we have to have it stamped to confirm the visit visa has been changed to it…and pay Dh505 for that bit of bureaucracy. That’s what they all meant by ‘stamping’. I thought they meant stamping the permanent visa in the passport.

OK, it’s only 1.30pm so we may be able to get the medical done today. There are three designated clinics, one is on the way back home, another is just beyond home but that’s my choice because it’s small, uncrowded, friendly, easy to get around… Mrs Seabee over-rules me, so we drive to the one on the way home, Iranian Hospital. We find a parking space, wander in, get lost, see huge queues, so I re-suggest we go to Jebel Ali, the nice, friendly, little one. OK, it’s 30 kilometres from where we are but it’ll be quicker to do that than sit around here in a huge queue. So, off into the sandstorm once again, along Sheikh Zayed Road.

Get into the clinic, ask the friendly Emirati gentleman who dealt with me when I did mine whether he can arrange the medical now. He'd love to...but today’s final problem, he’s run out of forms.
“So sorry, I can’t do it without a form. Mr Mansour will know whether he’ll have the forms tomorrow, but he’s gone home for the day. Phone me in the morning. If the forms are here we can do it then.”

By now it’s close to 3pm, so we call it a day and I have (only) my second, and well-earned, coffee of the day.

Tomorrow is another day…

I'll continue the story in a day or two...

7 comments:

trailingspouse said...

I read all through your saga (quite a story!) with it's 500 Dhs here, 10,000 Dhs there (wow, that's a lot of shekels) and then I see the title of your previous entry "Big fees no service" - ha, ha, quite, that says it all!

archer14 said...

I've been through the same experience, luckily my dad was there to help me out. I can sum up the whole process into that show on TV a decade back - "The Crystal Maze"
Everyones at one task or the other, and supposedly every single line is a multi-purpose counter. Maybe Dubai should try organising a contest - Submit the easiest Visa rule book (max 1 page) and WIN MILLIONS.

nzm said...

Coffee?

After all that, you're only drinking coffee?

Desert Lady said...

Ahh Dubai; The capital holiday destination of the world, the 5 star lifestyle, the all year round sunshine, the outstanding cuisine, ... well, the list is endless... but try and get something done that requires the local authorities and i'm afraid it's back to the dark ages!

Keefieboy said...

I'm with NZM on this one - you should have checked out Jebel Ali Cloob across the road from the Clinic.

Seabee said...

I was suffering from caffiene withdrawal - one a day just isn't enough - so I needed a hit.

bandicoot said...

seabee - I just read this gem (I know few months late, but that's the problem with blogs, so many of them, so little time). I kept notes from a couple of similar sagas. Now that you revealed the truth in your blog post, may be I should write a book about it!