Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Sancturary of Efficiency

There are a couple of things that when you are expat you cling onto very dearly. One is your medical insurance card the other is your passport. A little while ago I went through a small stage about being totally paranoid about the location of said passport - including stopping the taxi that was taking me to the airport so I could jump out open the boot and just check it was where I had left it. Irrational behavior? Perhaps, but every time I am forced to give my passport over to an embassy for a visa or hand it over at a security desk in exchange for an ID card at a company I am visiting I can not help but get anxious until I get it back.

As resident of Dubai - the two things you need to do nearly anything to interact with companies with is a copy of your passport and a mobile phone number. Without these things you become a faceless member of society unable to open a bank account, buy a car, get cable TV or even get basic utility services. The thought of having to replace both my passport and mobile left me with rather more anxiety than is reasonable.

In the UK if I wanted to get a new passport - I would have to go and pay a man a totally unreasonable price for a couple of passport photos. Queue for an age in the post office and pay an extra $10 to ensure I had managed to fill out the form properly then wait patiently for two to four weeks for it to eventually fall through the letter box.

I was so impressed by the British Embassy Passport service in Dubai - I can not really see myself going through the rigamarole in the UK again.

After seeing a friendly man who charged me $5 for eight good quality passport photos I headed down to the British Embassy with forms filled and photos "verified". On arrival at the Embassy I signed in and after a quick security check I wandered through the verdant gardens to the consular section. I was greeted by an empty room and a friendly member of staff processed my application at lightning speed and took the 1080AED from me in a matter of minutes with a promise that someone would call me before my travel date to tell me I could collect my passport.

Not even 48 hours had passed when the embassy called me to come and fetch my shiny new jumbo sized, biometrically enhanced passport. I was staggered. I went down and again I was met with an empty consular service desk. I don't think I actually spent more than six minutes in the Embassy in both trips.

Now for the other crucial bit of Dubai identity - a mobile number. I had to get a temporary Du SIM card which for a bargain 1AED gave me 125AED of credit however a pre-paid mobile with no international roaming is not the best business solution for me.

So I went in search of an Etisalat office for a post-paid SIM card with international roaming enabled. I made sure I had several copies of my shiny new passport with me. After locating the office - filling in the form and handing over a 2000AED deposit I was all set. Easy.

Somehow doing both these things made me feel like I was a Dubai citizen again after being in a state of limbo. How very odd, but full marks to both organizations for letting get my identity back so soon.


i*maginate said...

Brit Embassy, ok.

You refer to dodo and eatsalad.

Read UAE Comm blog for my informed opiniones on eatsalad and others' insights on dodo.

Dhs. 2000 for a deposit? What for?

Aaron said...

The 2000AED deposit is required for them to enable international roaming.

secretdubai said...

You can take your own passport photos if you have reasonably good multi-megapixel digital camera. It's a little fiddly then formatting the photo to the right dimensions (you kind of decrease its print size which massively increases its DPI rate or something) but there are plenty of step-by-step instructions to be Googled. I did this, using Photoshop to resize, and then printed it at a camera shop in Ibn Battuta (I put it on a CD for them, you could also put it on a USB stick or whatever).

The other advantage to this is that it means you can photoshop out unsightly blemishes. Editing the photo is technically illegal, and of course it would be stupid to adjust it so you fail biometric tests or remove identifying permanent birthmarks. But temporary blemishes such as spots - it makes sense to me to remove them. They are unsightly and misleading as to one's permanent appearance anyway. Just make sure you don't mention the photo is edited. And don't whatever you do fiddle with your eyes, as I think the photographed irises are what they mainly use for the biometric info.

Melissa said...

As a recent import from Canada, I too, share your passport-paranoia and double....okay triple/quadruple check the location of said passport at any given time.