By Fernando Lamelas
It’s Thursday morning back in April and I am a few days into my new job. As expected, the first couple of days there is a lot to digest, learn and many more questions to ask. My HR coordinator kindly suggested that I take the day off to look over my personal stuff, which in other words meant “time to settle down”. That early morning in April I was decisive about making it a productive one, so before I left my temporary accommodation near Abu Hail metro station, I proceeded to write down my goals for the day. My first stop, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bur Dubai where I needed to go for the final attestation of my masters diploma. Little I knew that after that first productive day, I still had many more things to do. This part of my life is called… process dependency.
As I continued to go through my checklist, I realized I was far from over and that feeling “settle down” was still a few weeks, perhaps months away. For some of the things I had to complete I had to make a call, pay a visit… and yes, make a second visit. Soon after my first few days everything started to click and I learned that I had to be patient and take one thing a time. “This is all part of a process”, I kept reminding myself.
When I moved to the US in August 2008, I came with a working visa at hand. The process had to be completed prior to my arrival in a US consulate in my home country, Mexico. The process, I remembered, was pretty efficient and straightforward. After that, all other applications I had to complete and processes I had to go through were fairly quick. Moving to the UAE on the other hand, has resulted in a slightly different experience. I came to the country on a temporary visa and upon arrival my company would apply for a permanent resident visa. After providing HR with some pending documents within the first couple days, my visa would take about two weeks to be processed. In the meantime, I had no option but to wait.
While two weeks is really not a lot of time, the IE in me wanted to get a jump start on applying for a driving license, buying a car, opening a bank account, moving to my own apartment and signing up for a mobile contract. All of these, I learned, required my visa being stamped in my passport.
The Emirates ID consists in a population register program that is intended to streamline government services and provide the authorities with key information to support Dubai’s development plans. Once the application was submitted and processed, next steps included visiting a medical center for biometrics and picking up my card at Emirates Post, the official postal service of the UAE. Two weeks after I applied and into my fourth week in Dubai, I had my Emirates ID. This would be needed for one of my pending (next) things to do: apply for a driving license.
Obtaining a driving license in the UAE has taken longer than expected. When compared to my experience in the US which took about 10 days from the time I arrived, rented a car, applied for a license and bought a car, in the UAE this can range between a couple of weeks to several months depending on the person’s nationality and his/her license country of origin. Citizens from neighbor GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, etc), the United States, Canada and other European countries can directly transfer their home country license and obtain a new one within a few minutes. In my case, even though I had a valid US license, the fact that my passport was from Mexico required me to attend two lectures and take a theory and road test. To my advantage though, if it wasn’t for my US license I would have required an additional 20 to 30 classes, which I won’t deny, would have been tough to go through considering I have been driving for almost 15 years!
Bank Account & Mobile Phone
While opening a bank account and signing up for a mobile contract have probably been the least complicated of all, these also required my residence visa. As a result, during my first couple of weeks I found myself using my US credit cards and using a pay-as-you-go (prepaid) phone until things got sorted out!
In retrospect, I would say it took me a good month to settle down and get done with the basics. While most of my colleagues and friends in Dubai are impressed with how much I had done in one month, I had only one point of reference: my experience in the US. This part of my life, which I called process dependency, has helped me develop my patience and appreciate the good and different things of each culture. In a future post I’ll look to talk more about some areas in which the UAE is making great progress related to electronic and mobile government services. Stay tuned!
In case you miss last month’s blog, see below a link to May’s post: An IE in the Middle East: Destination Dubai
Fernando Lamelas is a Resource Planning Manager for dnata, the air services company of the Emirates Group and currently lives in Dubai, UAE. Prior to his current role, Fernando worked for other Fortune 500 companies including Disney, General Electric and CEMEX. He holds a BS from Tecnológico de Monterrey and a MS from the University of Florida, both in Industrial Engineering. He is passionate about travelling, sports, diversity in the workplace, personal development and volunteerism.