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Male expat students vexed by visa problems.

Byline: Rania Moussly

Ali Rekaby was born and raised in the UAE. His family lives in the capital city. He feels it is his home, and he has a sense of loyalty to the land which has given him so much. Imagine the Egyptian national's disappointment as a 21-year-old male, on the brink of graduation and faced with the certainty of being pushed out of the only home country he has ever known.

Rekaby has a mere few weeks left to graduate from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) with a Bachelor's in Finance and Management Information Systems. Currently he is on a student visa issued by the university, but as graduation approaches, his days are numbered.

"I am graduating in three weeks, so I have three months to find a job in a market that's plummeting," said Rekaby. "And it doesn't look promising." The extra three months is courtesy the standard grace period given by the university to enable students to sort themselves out.

Plan B

"The law of the land is [that] once males reach the age of 18 they are not allowed on their family's sponsorship," said Rekaby. "For females they can remain indefinitely, but males either have to find a job or a different sponsor."

According to Rekaby finding a job and making money is not the issue. "It's just what's plan B, what am I going to do if it doesn't work out?"

More fortunate than others, Rekaby can return to his native country, work with his uncle in the US or try to make it with the help of friends in Europe. Yet the question remains, is he ready to leave his whole life and his family here in the UAE?

"It's rather the destabilisation that might happen in the family which is worrying me," said Rekaby, "where one member is forced out when the family is not ready to have that member away from them."


Aymane Jobrane, 23, is in the same boat. The Moroccan national has been working part-time at the AUS information technology department for the past three years. "Every student can work 60 hours a week," said the computer science student, "wherever there is a job opening in and outside university."

However, the issue of sponsorship and employment after graduation is troubling. Jobrane said he is applying for work and received some unsatisfactory offers. "I've received offers for a salary of Dh6,000. After studying engineering for four-and-a-half years, this is not convenient," he said. "I'd rather go back to Saudi where my family is and where I am still sponsored by my father."

Alternatively, Jobrane said, he plans to continue his education and pursue a Masters in Business Administration either at AUS or another institution. Thus he would merit continued sponsorship as a student.

The lucky ones

For those of certain nationalities the worry of sponsorship is much less and almost non-existent. Jon Tonderai Jena is about to graduate from AUS with a Bachelor's in Finance and Management. The American national is looking for work in the banking or financial administration sector.

He is stressed about passing his independent financial certification and university final exams. When asked about his worries about employment and sponsorship upon graduation Jena said: "I can't control whether I get a job or not so I can only worry about what is in my hands, which are my exams."

The residency issue is understanably not that pressing. "With my American passport I can fly in and out which gives me a six-month grace period where I don't need a visa," said Jena. "And I can use that period to look for a job."

Campus Notes was unable to get a comment from the Ministry of Interior before publication.

Documents needed for a student visa

n Student enrolment contract signed by the student and admission letter

n A clear passport copy

n Original passport and visit visa or visa cancellation paper (for in country visa)

n Parents' name and nationality

n Contact details in the UAE

n Details of your local guardian

n Proof of sufficient funds, such as an original bank statement with a minimum balance of Dh30,000 to show sufficient funds to support study and living expenses

n Copy of previous academic transcripts

n 12 passport size colour photos (4.3cm x 5.5cm) against a white background

- Source: Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus

Things to know about student visas

The student visa application process is a standard procedure said Wassim Hamadeh, marketing manager at Middlesex University Dubai. "It is a generic process and very straightforward," he said.

He said a student visa is renewed on a yearly basis depending on an assessment of a student's academic performance. This is unlike work visas that are issued for over two years. Upon graduation students have a three-month grace period to leave the country.

Hamadeh said the age limit for a student visa is 27. However, if a student transfers to the UAE in their final year at that age, they may still obtain a student visa.

He said from experience international students do not usually remain in the UAE; however, those with families here seek jobs after graduation.

Hamadeh said universities provide a service by sponsoring students and should not seek to make a profit out of it. The standard charge for a student visa in the first year of study is Dh2,200. "But of course it becomes less in the subsequent years," he said. A visa caution deposit of Dh7,000 is also charged, and the amount is returned to students upon visa cancellation.

Documents required for processing a student visa

- Student enrolment contract signed by the student

- Letter of Admission

- A clear passport copy

- Original passport and visit visa or visa cancellation paper (for in country visa)

- Parents' name and nationality

- Contact details in the UAE

- Details of your local guardian

- Proof of sufficient funds, such as an original bank statement with a minimum balance of Dh30,000 to show sufficient funds to support study and living expenses

- Copy of academic transcripts from previous studies

- 12 passport size colour photos (4.3cm x 5.5cm) against a white background

- Source: -

Heriot-Watt Dubai Campus

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Dec 20, 2009
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