Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Adventure Begins

As I come towards the end of my first week in Abu Dhabi I have finally found time to sit down and update my blog. It has been a hectic week, not helped by a day out of action (is "Abu Dhabi belly" a recognised condition?), but progress has been made on a number of fronts.

Jo flew out with me last Sunday evening, a second night flight in two days, having flown back from Florida on Friday / Saturday. The plan was for us to push on with getting my residency visa, and to find somewhere to live (not a decision I was willing to make on my own!) before Jo had to fly back to the UK on Thursday.

The first minor hurdle was before we got into the country. Having secured an Entry Permit before coming, before going through immigration I was required to exchange the scanned copy which had been emailed to me for the original copy which had apparently been left at the airport. We thought we had done well when we quickly found the visa counter and there was no queue, however after rummaging through the piles of entry permits on his desk, and making an agitated phone call, the man on the counter informed me that my permit was at the visa counter in another terminal of the airport. Thankfully it was only five minutes walk away so the matter was soon resolved and the original permit was in my possession.

A precious piece of paper

We grabbed our cases off the carousel, and headed through the "nothing to declare" channel, feeling very nervous that we would be selected to have our cases searched. Not that we had anything sinister in our luggage, but the stories you hear about people getting into trouble for seemingly innocuous things do make you worry a little.

The taxi sent by the hotel was waiting for us, and within 20 minutes we were checking into our hotel, the Millennium, in the middle of the city.

Thankfully BDO provide support with the visa process. Like many companies they have a PRO, a "man who can" who liaises with various government departments and carries out admin procedures. Unfortunately BDO's PRO is on leave at the moment so my support is being provided by a manager from the Abu Dhabi office. Within an hour of us checking in he had arrived to take possession of my passport and entry permit (I'd only had it an hour!) so the process of applying for my residency visa could start.

Part of the process is for me to undergo various medical tests, which happened on Tuesday. I was collected from the hotel by a couple of BDO managers at 7:30am and whisked off to the medical centre where the tests are undertaken. I was one of many people there for the same tests but the whole process was pretty methodical. I think this is how it went, it all passed in a bit of a blur:

  1. Register at the main counter and receive a numbered ticket showing your position in line for the medical tests.
  2. Walk out of the building, walk round the corner to another building, register at the counter and receive a second numbered ticket showing your position in the queue for various bits of personal information to be collected.
  3. Wait until your number comes up on the display then go to the indicated counter where your photograph is taken, finger and palm prints are recorded digitally, and a sample of your signature is taken.
  4. Back to the original building, wait in the main waiting room (separate waiting rooms for males and females) until your number is shown.
  5. Go to counter indicated and pay 250 dirhams for the medical tests.
  6. Go through the door indicated where you will find a corridor of small offices. A security guard will direct you to one of these offices where a doctor will decide what tests you need and mark these on a card.
  7. Straight into another of the offices where you will have a blood sample taken.
  8. Down to the end of the corridor where a chest X-ray will be taken.

It took an hour and a half from start to finish, with the tests themselves probably taking up five minutes of this, and the rest being sat waiting. Mind you, it seems to have been a good idea to arrive early - I had 80 people in front of me for the medical tests despite arriving at 7:45am, but as I left I could see people holding tickets suggesting there were 200+ people in front of them.

The medical test results are available within 24 hours so it is actually a pretty efficient process (I wonder how long it would take in the UK?). Mind you, it felt a little strange that it was the manager from BDO that went to collect the results (which were fine), no such thing as patient confidentiality here.

The next stage, as far as I am aware (it happens without my input) is to apply for my medical insurance card and my Emirates ID card, following which I can get my residency visa. Then we can start the process of applying for visas for Jo and the kids.

That's probably enough for now, I'll cover the progress made with looking for somewhere to live in another post.

Thanks for reading, please do leave a comment if you have any advice on how I can improve future posts.


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