Sankofa 1: Visa runs and sponsorship woes

Do not run through life so fast that you forget not only where you have been, but  also where you are going. Peace of Mind by anonymous.

So many wonderful things happening at the moment. I’ve enjoyed developing the ideas, drafting and refining, publishing, reading and replying to the comments, yet…

I needed to stop and reflect.  I needed to remind myself of the context.  I needed to go back to the beginning and reconnect.

Consequently, I have decided over the next 3 weeks to republish the blogs that got me started on this journey. An adventure encouraged by fellow writer and blogger Chris I am grateful for her support and challenge.

Here’s the first of 3 blogs that appeared on the :

Visa runs and sponsorship woes 

My family moved to Qatar with the understanding that I could sponsor my husband and our son. We’ve been in Doha just over 2 years and in that time I have not been able to acquire sponsorship for my husband nor has he been able to secure a job. In order to stay in Qatar legally he has to make visa runs.

Often it is every two months on a tourist visa. A couple of times, we’ve applied for a 6 month family visit visa( involves a marriage certificate attested by 3 authorities here and in the UK, letter from my sponsor, a medical)  but once he leaves the country, this visa is nullified and the process has to be restarted. This was definitely not the plan.

We arrived in Qatar at the end of June 2010. Due to the reduced working times of Ramadan and the Eid holidays, it took 10 weeks for my own Resident Permit to be issued. Since my husband and son couldn’t get under my sponsorship until my paperwork was in order, they had to do a visa run to Dubai. The first run was fun as it was to friends he’d not seen for a long time and they had never met our son.

When they returned to Qatar I discovered we couldn’t move into permanent housing unless my husband and son were both sponsored by me. Until then, my family would have to remain in temporary housing.

The immigration department of the organization I work for advised that as  the changes to the spousal sponsorship law were recent, I may encounter difficulties to sponsor my husband. I applied and was refused. Why, I wondered, were we not told about getting our marriage certificate attested by the UK Home Office and a solicitor? I sought help from my organization. There was much talk and little action. I applied again and was refused. My husband and son had to do another visa run.

I tried another track; I tried to sponsor my son. Before the application could be accepted I was asked to get his blood type. This was the easiest part. I went to a clinic just off the Salwa Road and in a matter of minutes and 50 riyals, I knew he was B+ – was that a message from the universe?  I was asked to return within a week. On my return I was issued with a letter in Arabic and when I tried to clarify, I was told to go to the MOI building on C ring near the American Hospital. Once again, colleagues translated that I had been asked to attend a panel to be approved as a female sponsoring our child. I was advised not to take my son but my husband could come for support.

We arrived at 7 am at said building on the date given in October and took the now ubiquitous Qmatic number. The place was heaving and there was little explanation of what the process would be. After a two hour wait, I was asked to enter a room that had a table of about 15 Qatari’s on one side and then about twice the number of expats on the other side, all talking at once. I was motioned to sit down, and asked my name, where I worked, why my husband did not work, my child’s age and then he wrote something on the paper and motioned for me to leave. I tried asking what it meant but no explanation was forthcoming. I left the room and tried to explain to my husband what happened. He asked an official outside who said that I had to return to the original MOI building.

I did that later the same day. I was asked to go to the Medical Commission for my child. As the staff at the MOI had not given me the reasons for this trip, one of my female Qatari colleagues accompanied me to the Medical Commission. It worked like a charm. 20 minutes and 100 riyals later, the document was stamped and we were leaving. To this day, I am still none the wiser as to the reason for this process as my son was not present and he has not had any medical examinations done.  This I presented to the MOI office and by the end of October, I had my son’s RP. My husband, on the other hand, made another visa run.

We discussed the issue with other couples in our situation. We did meet 2 couples who were successful in sponsoring their husband but it was through the wives’ persistence that ‘waasta’ was eventually applied to secure these sponsorships. We decided not to go through the trouble of trying again but rather continue doing visa runs until by husband found a job that would sponsor him. That wasn’t as simple as we anticipated.

Was it time to rethink the dream?


2 thoughts on “Sankofa 1: Visa runs and sponsorship woes

  1. It’s ridiculous the amount of gratification I get from kicking people into action to write the stories that are screaming to get out. So glad you listened to your story. Sharing it has helped others living here as well. I’m looking forward to see what other stories come out.

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