resvisaWe are now official residents of the U.A.E.!  I’ve never had to experience becoming a resident of another country, so I don’t know how it fares here vs. somewhere else, but it seems quite hard!   Just before Christmas my family received their official residents visas in their passports.  Up ‘till then, they were on visitors visas sponsored by me.  It all seemed so surreal.  While my husband knew all along that this was home for the next two to four years…I still felt like we were playing vacation.  I kept expecting to wake-up from it all, and head back home.  During our 2 months in a hotel, I would often wake-up feeling like the vacation was ending any day.  I just never said…this is home…this is where we live.

The process of becoming a resident here, and finalizing everything, is a long and confusing process.  I kinda thought we’d get here and that was that.  I didn’t realize how much paperwork and how many months it would take to become a resident.  And your life really can’t begin here until you are a resident.  This process often had me questioning why we’re here, and if I could survive the “it will happen when it happens” mentality.  I have to admit, I have wanted to bail out on this adventure many times.  But then some magical moment, or recollection of this opportunity pops in, and I want to stay and see it through.  Frustrations and all, this is a pretty special place in the World, and I intend to search it out for all its got.

When you get here the way I did, you arrive on a workers visa and my family was on visitors visas.  This means that we’re all in the process of becoming residents, but aren’t officially as of yet.  So, a visitor only has 30 days to be in the country…then you have to cross a border into another country to renew the visitors visa for another 30 days.  You do this until you get your resident visa secure and in your passport.  Each time you cross the border, there’s a fee..yep, take my family of 5, that’s a lot of fees when we had to cross the border twice!   And you “can’t” take a rental car across the border without paying a hefty fee in order to get a letter from the rental car company allowing it.  Fortunately, border patrol let us over, both times, in a rental with no fees.

But that’s not all!  You need health inspections too!  This is usually a blood test, blood pressure, a quick health history, and an x-ray of the lungs.  Children don’tnationalID need to do this, only adults.  Health inspections are for your resident visa and your your health care card.  The other things you need which are relatively easy to get are your driver’s license and your UAE National ID.  The National ID is essentially more important than your passport here.  While it seems pretty straight forward…get your health check, get your visa, get your driver’s license, and get your National ID…it really takes about two to three months to complete EVERYTHING…sometimes more!  A family I’m aware of arrived when I did, and they are STILL waiting for some of these documents to come through.  My husband and children are still waiting for their National IDs as we speak, and we’re in month five.  But it’s all a part of the experience here…THIS is how life is for me now.  You don’t throw up your hands anymore in frustration.  Instead, you give an inner smirk and try to appreciate the casualness of so many things.

Lines, long lines are involved in all of these situations.  My husband went to get his National ID taken care of, and they actually told him they would call him when they could fit him in as they were so backed up!  Even going to the hospital clinic is better when with a child than going alone as a man.  They wait and wait and wait.  I often get to go ahead of the line as a woman, which is actually a refreshing thing.  Almost everywhere we go, when they see the kids or me, we are given priority treatment.  My husband tells me of the good treatment he gets once someone sees one of our kids.  licenseWatch out blonde hair and blue eyes…you’ll get lots of attention here…and special treatment!

While the process is long and tedious, and frustrating at times, it’s a wake up call as well.  In the U.S., we are used to “go, go, go” mentality.  We work long hours until the project is complete, we try to be efficient and quick at everything we do, we even FedEx just so documents are delivered A.S.A.P.    We don’t slow down.  We feel awkward telling someone to wait, or it will happen when it happens.  Not so here.  You kinda go with the flow here.  It’s taught me to be a little more patient, a little more understanding, and a little more flexible.  I hope I can remember some of these when I return to the U.S. down the road.  Although I’m sure, after time, we’ll return to what we knew, and live life a little faster again.

I write this post not to dissuade anyone from coming, but quite the opposite.  Know that there is a process if you want to live here, know that life does move at a different pace here, but know that you will learn so much about yourself and what YOU are capable of handling.  You might surprise yourself.  I know I have.