Monday, September 14, 2009

Run for Your Visa

One of new aspects of my life as an expatriate is a concern on visa. I think I am better off dealing with UAE visa laws compare to Saudi Arabia visa laws. I heard in Saudi Arabia, one not only need visa to come to Saudi but expatriate also need visa to get out from Saudi Arabia. I don't know whether this is true but if it is, that is really a headache.

In UAE, visa is issued for various categories of visit and stay. There are visit visa, tourist visa, multiple entry visa, residence visa and transit visa. Apart from visa, tourists and expatriates require sponsors who will apply visa on their behalf. Like in my case, my sponsor for residence visa is my employer. But Malaysians tourist are lucky because our government has a reciprocal agreement with UAE whereby Malaysian tourist will be entitled to 30 days free visa on arrival in UAE. So for Malaysians, they don't have to find local sponsor to apply for their visit visa in UAE.

A common culture for expatriates in Dubai is during school holidays, many expatriates bring in their wives, children and families to come over for long vacation in Dubai. I am one of them. My wife and son are staying in Dubai for a 4 months vacation. For a stay more than 30 days I am supposed to apply for a special long visit visa for my wife and son which costs around AED500 each.

However there is a cheaper way to do it. Instead of applying for that long visit visa, peoples here go for a visa run. Literally it means running to the border, get out from the country and come back in with a new visit visa. This privilege is only accorded to a handful of countries lke UK, USA, Singapore and Malaysia. It sounds easy? But I have to do it every 40 days. And that is boring..

Desert tree

So here are the steps for a visa run in Dubai, UAE:

1) Drive to the border. Don't forget to bring passport. There are 3 popular borders from Dubai ie, Hatta, Musandam and Al Ain. These are UAE borders with Sultanate of Oman. I use Hatta border because it is close to my house;
2) Present passport to the immigration counter. Get the exit stamp;
3) Drive to Oman border post. On the way, there will be car inspection. Should not be a problem if you are not carrying drugs or dead body;
4) At Oman border, present your passport to the counter. If you really want to visit Oman, you have to buy car insurance. But if just to renew visa, you can simply tell the officer you want to renew visa;
5) Pay AED60 per person and get visit visa to Oman;
6) Make a U-turn to Dubai and drive to Dubai border;
7) Get a visit visa stamp from Dubai immigration for 30 days. You are done.

A straight road to Oman border

Last weekend I made a record of 3 hours to complete the whole run. I felt lazy to do it in the beginning because my wife and I will be leaving Dubai for UK anyway, this coming Friday for our Eid vacation. But I didn't want to have any problem with the immigration for overstaying without valid visa, so I did the run.

It has been said that a pretty face is a passport. But it is not.
It's a visa and it runs out fast.

Julie Burchilli
British Columnist

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ramadhan in Dubai

Muslims all over the world are enjoying the holy month of Ramadhan from August 22nd until September 19th or 20th, depending on the sighting of the moon crescent to mark celebration of Eid-al-Fitri. For me and my family this year we celebrate the Ramadhan for the first time in Dubai.

There are a few differences on how Ramadhan is celebrated in Dubai compared to Malaysia. The first thing I noticed is the shortened office hours. Whilst in Malaysia, government offices and some private companies close at 4pm, here government closes at 2pm and private companies at 3pm. It is a very short working hours for me to finish my usual day's workload. But on the other hand, I spend more quality time with family at home either preparing Iftar or looking for restaurants around Dubai.

There is no Ramadan Bazaar for public in UAE. But I am not deprived of Ramadan Bazaar experience here due to Malaysian Association's Ramadan Bazaar every Friday in Abu Dhabi and Dubai selling home made Malaysian cuisines. I have been to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai Malaysian Ramadan Bazaar. The peoples and the foods were amazing. Ramadan Bazaar is truly the Malaysian thing which cannot be found elsewhere.

There is no 'moreh' or refreshment after solat Taraweh. The solat Taraweh in a mosque near my apartment is performed for 20 rakaat. The Imam recite long Quranic verses with no zikr and praise to the 4 Caliph between the rakaat similar to the style in IIUM Mosque.

Iftar buffet. WOW ! there are a lot around hotels and restaurants in Dubai. I can find any type of buffet to suit my appetite. However I have never been to any of them, because I think it is too much for me. In fact, there is one international restaurant in Atlantis Hotel (the famous hotel in The Palm) which sell Malaysian dishes for Ramadan Iftar. I have not been there but I read that the price starts from AED400 per person. Wuhu...maybe next time or maybe not !

Iftar Tent. This one I have never seen it in Malaysia. Maybe some places in Kuala Lumpur but not a custom yet. But here, I find a lot of companies and wealthy individuals sponsoring Iftar tents for the public. So everybody irrespective of background and race can freely come and enjoy whatever dishes supplied under the tents during Iftar. This is Ramadan culture in Dubai. I have never been to any tent so far, but am planning to, inshallah.

Respect for the fasting time. In Dubai the laws require all restaurants including food court to close during fasting hours. Some restaurants which are allowed to serve foods must operate its business behind full curtains. Not only restaurants are closed, the public are not allowed to eat and drink in the open. This applies to non-Muslims as well. Restaurants and food court are allowed to take orders starting from 6 o'clock but the foods can only be enjoyed after Iftar time. The other day I was waiting for Iftar time in a food court and an Indian couple behind me started to eat their meals when it arrived. They were quickly been told off by the mall's security guard to wait until Iftar time.

Eid preparation. I have not seen any special Eid promotion. Most of the sale advertisement promote their discount as Ramadan sale. It was not as grand as in Malaysia. Maybe it is not the time yet.

Ramadan drama. I am not referring to real life drama here, but the special tv soap for the month of Ramadan. Here we have one drama titled "Siraa' ala al Reemal"(Struggle in the Sand) which is a UAE-based production, aired in Dubai One channel at 7.00 pm. The story was based on the poetry and imagination of Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Ruler if Dubai) himself, revolving around the life and struggle of groups of bedouin. His poem was beautiful, not bad at all. But at the same time my wife and I have been watching a very addictive Malaysian soap as well titled "Nur Kasih". You can watch this drama in Catch Up TV in TV3 website. This drama is very touching and made me cried with some of it scenes and dialogue. It is a good drama to exercise my tear glands.

I look forward to enjoy the rest of Ramadan days. God bless us all.

Ramadan Kareem...Ramadan Mubarak !!


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