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Monday, November 10, 2008

The Job Ain't Over 'Till the Paperwork's Done

With my first steps inside the Abu Dhabi airport, I had to pickup my Employment Visa, this was the start of the paper trail. Then after a few days I had to surrender my passport to my employer's Human Resource department for at least ten days so they could apply for my Residence Visa. In exchange for my passport, I was handed a pile of papers with instructions on how to get other required paperwork done on my own.

The first rule on each of these papers is that you neeed to have multiple passport sized photos to present with each application to ever hope of getting done what you needed to get done. That explains the small, Pakistani-operated "Studios" on each block. Now this isn't like going into Walgreens and getting the salesgirl from the cosmetics counter to come over and snap a Polaroid of you against the wall, these guys are professionals. You are ushered into a room in the back and are seated on a red velvet bench and the photographer comes in and poses you "just right" before he snaps the photo. They use real 35MM cameras and flash strobes. They do a very good job and it costs less than Walgreens. I have been in four different studios and thay all look the same inside.

The second rule is that you need a document called a "No Objection Certificate" or NOC from your employer to get just about anything officially accomplished. You see, the employer is your sponsor for residency in this country and you cannot get a drivers's license, buy a car, get a bank account, rent an apartment, get a liquor license (more on that later) or install utilities without the expressed, written permission of your boss on file. Also there are no universal NOC's, there has to be a specific one for each activity you want to engage in. They are written in Arabic so as far as I know they are describing me to the bureaucrat across the counter as a degenerate Western ass-clown and it is OK to charge me 10X the fees normally levied on a local citizen.

So, armed with a pocket full of passport photos and a briefcase stuffed with NOC's, I set off to trek the jungle of Emirates' bureaucracy in the search of a comfortable existence here.

Stay tuned, more to come soon......

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