…detailing the trip I took to Dubai to get my spouse visa for Saudi. If you need to go to Dubai to get a visa for Saudi Arabia, read the first part. Skip to the second part if you want a few recommendations of things to do while in Dubai.
I am one of the lucky KAUST spouses that was able to accompany my husband at the same time that he moved to Saudi. Traditionally, the process is:
- The employee is hired by KAUST
- S/he moves to KAUST
- S/he obtains their residency card (iqama)
- S/he uses the iqama to bring the rest of the family to the country.
This process can take a month or two and can be difficult on families. For the person in Saudi, it’s hard to be in a new place all alone; for the person in the home country, the details of a move can be overwhelming and having your partner’s help can be crucial. I’m sure it’s tough on kids too.
I am not too familiar with the ins and outs of the tourism/visitor rules for KSA, but what I do know know is that the only way you can to get into the country is if you have a good reason – hajj/umrah, employment, or immediate family of a skilled worker etc. Luckily for me, my parents also work at KAUST, so when Kevin got his initial invite into the Kingdom, I was able to get a 3-month visitors visa as an immediate family member of my parents’, thereby bypassing the month or two delay between Kevin’s arrival and my own.
My visitor visa was due to expire soon, so it was time to get myself associated as Kevin’s spouse, and make our move official. But, the spouse visa must be issued outside of the kingdom, and you must use it to get into the country to be official.
So, lucky for me, the closest, cheapest, easiest place to visit was Dubai! This was very exciting news for me because I have never been to Dubai before and was eager to experience the modern middle east at it’s best.
Once I arrived in Dubai, I had someone from KAUST facilitating the process on my behalf that was able to make the process happen pretty quick (3 days). If you don’t have that, I would recommend spending at least a week in Dubai to make all of the pieces come together.
- Step 1: Medical. I went to the Preventative Care Clinic at the Al Baraha hospital to have my medical done. It consisted of a chest x-ray and a blood test. I was not impressed with the sterility of the hospital – I recommend bringing your own alcohol swab :-). I went first thing in the morning and spent about an hour at the hospital – they have a swift operation there – but I imagine it probably gets clogged up at busy times. Under ordinary circumstances, the medical takes two days.
Paperwork needed at the medical: Copy of passport & 2 passport size photos. They also wanted a copy of my previous visa to Saudi.
Costs: 280 AED
- Step 2: Typing. I used Al Rumi Business-man services to get all my paperwork completed for submission to the embassy. The office was busy and a little overwhelming, but the paperwork was done in less than 2 hours.
Paperwork needed for Typing: My visa invite number (provided by my employer on a yellow paper), copy of marriage certificate, copy of husband’s iqama, medical paperwork.
Costs: 150 AED
- Step 3: Embassy. Once my medical and the typing were completed, I took both sets of paperwork to the Saudi embassy along with my passport. I had a contact at the embassy, but I never met him in person. I simply left my paperwork at the gatehouse for him and returned the next day to pick it up. I understand though that this process usually takes 3-4 days.
Paperwork needed at the embassy: Everything from Al Rumi (including the medical paperwork)
Costs: none or possibly waived for some reason.
The whole time, I kept waiting for some piece of the process to not come together. In the end though, it all happened swiftly and without much trouble at all. The folks on the GASC team at KAUST were a real help in getting all of this done. I was so impressed with their service, and so appreciative of their kind attentiveness to my situation.
One thing that really helped the process was having a local mobile phone. I have an unlocked iphone, so just picked up a new sim at the Du Store at the Dubai airport. It cost about 50 AED and was well worth it, as the hospital, Al Rumi, and the embassy all wanted a contact number for me.
The only real trouble for me was that each day I had to go into town and, not knowing Dubai very well, I booked a hotel that was at Jumeriah Beach which was about a 85 AED trip by taxi. If I had to do it again, I would book a hotel at Bur Dubai or somewhere along Dubai Creek– it’s still a fun area, but much closer to the hospital, Al Rumi, and the Saudi consulate.
View Dubai Visa Trip in a larger map
I hope that if you need to do the same process as I did that this blog post will help you. If it has, leave me a note and let me know if I missed anything!
The Fun Part
My mom decided to join me on my trip. I did all the visa stuff on my own, but I was able to enjoy my down time with my mom, which was great! Here were a few of the highlights for us:
- The Sofitel Hotel – this new, modern hotel is right on Jumeriah Beach and is centrally located among many restaurants and hotels. It’s located in a fun area & everyone here seems to be rich – with expensive cars and expensive restaurants. But, since you’re in Dubai it’s worth taking it all in as part of the experience! There is a nice pool on the 3rd floor with views of the beach and one of the palm islands. The rooms are lovely and the staff were very helpful. The only downside was that the wifi wasn’t working properly – and the wifi was one of the main reasons we chose the hotel!
- The Old souk in Bur Dubai – here we met many Indian, Pakistani, and Afghan workers at a souk designed with history in mind. The wood roofing and doors harkened back to an earlier time, and there were some lovely indian and arab goods to buy. It was a very nice souk indeed!
- Ravi Pakistani restaurant – this is the definition of authentic. There is nothing glitzy-glam about this place but the food was excellent. If you like Pakistani food, check this place out. We ate dinner for 2 for less than 10 USD.
- The Atlantis – on the other end of the spectrum from Ravi, this place is a resort for the ultra-rich. My mom and I were curious about the Palm Island and Atlantis so we took a trip out to see it. Lucky for us, we were able to skip by the security guards and make it down to the beach (if you work for Atlantis and are reading this, I’m sorry and I promise not to do it again!). We got a nice view:
I’m also happy to report that we didn’t spend a dime while we were there :-)
- The Beach Bar at the One and Only hotel – This place was a little hard to find upon entering the hotel, but if you want a really nice meal at a reasonable price, check this place out. One important thing to know about Dubai is that alcohol is only allowed during certain hours, and is only served at hotels. Since we can’t drink in Saudi, a drink with dinner added to the special treat of eating at the Beach Bar. I got the Seafood Platter and it was to die for.
I also wanted to share a few recommendations that friends shared with me, that I wish I had the time to explore:
- Buddha Bar in Grovesnor Hotel (very atmospheric for a cocktail) – Dubai Marina Area (Suggestion from Barbara Blakemore McKee)
- Cuban Restaurant (El Malecon) and the Mexican Restaurant (Loca) – At Dubai Marine Resort on Jumeriah Beach Road (Suggestion from Barbara Blakemore McKee)
- Automatic Restaurant, locations all over Dubai – Best Chicken Swarma and cheap (Suggestion from Barbara Blakemore McKee)
- “Have high tea or a drink at the Burj. Lunch at lime tree cafe and get carrot cake for desert!” (Suggestion from Cortney Fechtmeyer AlIesa)
- Dinner at Sho Chos at the Dubai Marine resort and spa in Jumeriah (Suggestion from Cortney Fechtmeyer AlIesa)
- Indoor Skiing – The Mall of the Emirates (Suggestion from Amanda Kirby and Barbara Blakemore McKee)
- Sand Boarding in the desert (Suggestion from Jason Harris and Alison Stockham)
- Day trip to Abu Dhabi – “their mosque is amazing, eat lots of Baklava…” (Suggestion from Lisneyda Linares)
- Spa at Wafi (Suggestion from Cortney Fechtmeyer AlIesa)
- Go to Atlantis and swim with the dolphins and a fun water park there. (Suggestion from Cortney Fechtmeyer AlIesa)
- Dubai Mall – “Dubai Mall is a must as it has lots to do – you can see the Burj Khalifa, the huge aquarium, fountain lightshow, etc” (Suggestion from Jason Harris and Cortney Fechtmeyer AlIesa)
- Shop at Karama for knock off clothes, purses, jewelry and good gift stuff (Suggestion from Cortney Fechtmeyer AlIesa)
- Souks: Gold souk, spice souk (Suggestion from Cortney Fechtmeyer AlIesa)
It turns out that Dubai is much bigger and grander than we expected, and much less glitzy-glam. I was expecting the Las Vegas of the Middle East. What I got was SO much better.