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Family Members and Marriage for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: March 2014

Family Members

Ideally, when you immigrate to another country, you are able to bring your partner and children with you at the same time. If this is not financially or otherwise possible, you may need to spend some time working in the UAE, and possibly sending money to your home country to help support your family. Once you have started to familiarise yourself with the Emirates, found some suitable family accommodation, and perhaps looked into schools and such things, you may find it easier to move the rest of your family into the country.

If you want to arrange your family members to visit you in the UAE, you will need to sponsor them. If it is friends you want to sponsor, you will have to put up a large deposit as well. Each family member will also need a visit visa, which is initially valid for two months, and can be extended to 90 days for a further fee. In order to sponsor your family, you must be able to prove that you have permanent accommodation, that is, you must supply a tenancy agreement and a residence visa. You will also need to provide details of the visitors’ travel plans and photocopies of their passports.

If you want your family to stay with you in the Emirates long-term, in addition to sponsorship, you must submit family residence visa applications for your spouse and each of your children within 30 days of their arrival in the UAE. Documents you will need include a copy of your passport and the originals of all applicants’ passports, and medical test certificates for all over 18s. These applications will only be successful if you are in employment by that time. Your employer may help you with sponsorship.

If you lose your job or your contract expires, your residence visa will no longer be considered valid and you will be asked to leave the UAE. This means that, if you want to continue living in the Emirates, it will be very important to have another job lined up.

 

Marriage

There is no such thing as a civil ceremony in the UAE; as per Islamic law only religious ceremonies can be held. Currently, only Muslim, Christian and Hindu ceremonies are available. If you want a civil ceremony, it will need to be held in your embassy, if they consent to this. The permitted religions of the bride and groom are also restricted. For example, in a Muslim wedding, the man must be Muslim but the woman can instead be Christian or Jewish – though pressure will be put on her to convert.

Polygamy is legal. To be more precise, it is only polygyny, that is, a man married to multiple wives, rather than the converse, that is legal. A man may have up to four wives, on condition that the man can support all his wives and that the first wife approves of further spouses. In a similar fashion, Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslims, while men are.

To be permitted to marry, you must either have a residence visa or accept to undergo a medical examination. For a Muslim wedding, the bride’s father and two male Muslim witnesses must attend the ceremony. It can be arranged on the day and takes about 10 minutes.

Other documents you will need to submit include:

  • passports
  • birth certificates
  • medical examination certificates
  • processing fee

There are different requirements for Christian and Hindu weddings. For example, in a Christian wedding, proof of marriageability is always required.

 

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