feeding my own misguided insanity

Dubai Residency Visa: Medical & Blood Tests are a Waste of Time

Every three years, along with hundreds of thousands of other expats, I must renew my UAE residency visa — a process that’s as convoluted as it is archaic. Despite the fact that most of the bureaucratic grunt-work is done by somebody else, my family and I are still required to subject ourselves to blood tests that screen for various diseases.

No, I’m not squeamish about blood being drawn from my arm, nor do I think the process is particularly painful, but I do believe that it’s unnecessary and seriously infringes on my privacy.

[ Please note that questions related to health matters will NOT be answered within the comments section of this post. You are advised to contact a UAE consular representative in your own country for more information. ]

According to the Dubai Health Authority’s website:

The Dubai Health Authority provides a quality Medical Fitness screening service to all non-locals living in Dubai the luxurious city everyone seeks to reside to experience a comfortable lifestyle. This service is available to those who would like to obtain a new visa or renew an existing visa for employment, residency or education.

I don’t quite know what a subjective statement like: “Dubai the luxurious city everyone seeks to reside to experience a comfortable lifestyle” aims to achieve on a medical website, but I’m sure it was written by the same people who run Dubai’s tourism campaigns.

The website goes on to say that the screening tests are based on the Federal Laws of the country to “assure a healthy living environment where the whole community is protected against infectious disease that may be a threat to the public health.”[1] And because the residency visa is tied to the employer, the tests are a non-negotiable element of life in Dubai.

Dubai X-Ray & Blood Screening

There are many conflicting reports as to what gets tested, not even the nurse who took my blood was able to say conclusively. However, the following list makes reference to information collected by the Dubai FAQ website:

  • AIDS/HIV: All new and renewal residence visa applicants tested. Deportation if found positive.
  • Hepatitis B: Conflicting reports. Tested for only six categories of workers¹ for new visa and maybe visa renewals. Question marks about whether those found positive are (1) treated permitted to stay, (2) treated and deported, or (3) not treated but deported. All three scenarios reported in various publications. For example, Khaleej Times 09 October 2010 reports Test is limited to new arrivals … for the following six categories … Residence or labour residence or renewal of visa shall not be granted to positive cases … If the results show negative, the above mentioned six categories should take the vaccine on arrival. So are positive cases treated or deported?
  • Hepatitis C: No longer tested for anyone.
  • Leprosy: New resident visa applicants tested and deported if found positive. Some reports said visa renewals would be tested (eg Al Khaleej), other reports said they wouldn’t (eg Khaleej Times). Confusion reigns (as usual).
  • Pregnancy: Foreigners employed as baby sitters, drivers (females), or house maids would also have pregnancy test. If positive, then the employer must provide a letter of no objection before residence visa is granted. Unknown what happens to workers who are unmarried and pregnant – an arrest and jail sentence is possible or likely.
  • Syphilis: Only six categories of workers tested¹, and treated if found positive, but not deported (unless also testing positive for a deportable illness).
  • Tuberculosis (TB): New resident expatriates will be tested for tuberculosis (TB), and denied a residence visa and deported if results are positive. TB sufferers are treated first before deportation at the Muhaisnah Medical Center in Dubai. If treatment takes longer than 2 months, they are transferred to Rashid Hospital infectious diseases ward. Expats renewing resident visas are not tested for TB. Khaleej Times reported 09 October 2010 that those with HIV and tuberculosis are deported and can come back to the country only after six months and if completely cured. Doesn’t make sense for HIV as that is not curable as far as we know. Check with immigration before assuming that being cleared of TB means a reapplication is permitted.
  • Medical test fees are
    • AED 250 for AIDS, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, leprosy and syphilis
    • AED 50 for pregnancy test
    • AED 50 for hepatitis vaccination
    • AED 200 for authentication of health insurance for private sector workers
    • AED 500 for authentication of Emirati agent’s 3-year card for companies with 10 or more employees
    • AED 1,000 for expatriate agent’s card for 1 year
  • Non-UAE relatives of Emirati nationals are exempted from the medical fitness examinations and tests – spouses, children, parents were mentioned but unclear if exemption extends to siblings or further removed relatives.

What Happens to the Blood Data

I guess I didn’t give it much thought before moving to the UAE, but I now realize that I fundamentally object to any government having access to my biological data or DNA — DNA that could have been harvested from my blood samples.[2] After all, there is no central authority policing what happens to the blood or my results — I certainly don’t remember reading a disclaimer stating that my medical data will remain confidential. For all I know a DNA database already exists and is being shared with other like-minded international organizations.

I challenge anyone in the UAE to prove to me with 100% confidence that once the Health Authority has screened my blood for the diseases listed above, that the blood sample is destroyed and disposed of in a way so as to make it impossible to deduct or infer any other information or biological data.

What about the Tourists

As a professional working in Dubai, I’m subjected to a whole list of tests that infringe on my medical privacy. After all, divulging my medical particulars to 3rd party organizations isn’t something I signed up for. It seems that the UAE is quite paranoid about the health of its residents, and yet almost 10 million tourists are allowed to freely enter the country to engage in all sorts of activities without so much as a flu vaccination.[3]

With the exception of Tuberculosis and Leprosy, it’s clear that the tests target conditions and diseases typically associated with sex. I ask you, who has more to loose in this situation: the expatriate who has built a successful life in the Emirate or the frivolous tourist who is there for a quick all-you-can-eat, drink, shop and seduce stopover? And so, there is nothing standing in the way of a tourist with HIV, Hepatitis or Syphilis slipping into the country for night of unbridled passion. It seems silly to screen only residents considering that tourists have next to no incentives to avoid unprotected promiscuity.

Conclusion

If the UAE government is serious about maintaining “a healthy living environment where the whole community is protected against infectious disease that may be a threat to the public health,” (their words, not mine) it should extend the same screening procedures to all tourists that enter the country. Doing any less is just a joke and turns the resident screening procedure into an unnecessary farce. Either screen everybody or nobody.

Footnotes
  1. Dubai Health Authority is the body responsible for carrying out and monitoring these tests. ^
  2. Red blood cells do not have any DNA, as they lose their nuclei (the compartment in a cell that contains the DNA) as they mature. So the DNA in your blood is in your white blood cells. To get at it, scientists first spin a small sample of your blood at high speed, to separate the cells from the blood fluid. Next, they release the DNA from the cells using a detergent and a special enzyme. Finally, they add alcohol, which makes your DNA appear as sticky blob in the mixture. ^
  3. Arabian Travel Market, the leading travel exhibition in the Middle East, is witnessing strong online visitor interest ahead of this year’s event, with the number of foreign tourists heading to the UAE this year expected to reach almost 9 million, according to the latest industry figures. ^

Bibliography

1.
2.
DNA Forensics Problem Set [Online]. [date unknown]. http://www.biology.arizona.edu/human_bio/problem_sets/dna_forensics_2/06t.html [9 Oct. 2013].
3.
Dubai: Tourism up | Tourism | UAE: Dubai | Oxford Business Group [Online]. [date unknown]. http://www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com/economic_updates/dubai-tourism [9 Oct. 2013].
4.
Medical Fitness Home [Online]. [date unknown]. http://www.dha.gov.ae/En/servicecatalogue/eservices/medicalfitness/pages/default.aspx [9 Oct. 2013].
5.
Medical test in Dubai [Online]. Dubai FAQs [date unknown]. http://www.dubaifaqs.com/medical-test-dubai.php [9 Oct. 2013].
6.
UAE tourist arrivals to rise 9% in 2012 – Arabian Travel Market [Online]. [date unknown]. http://www.arabiantravelmarket.com/Media-PR/ATM-Press-Releases/UAE-tourist-arrivals-to-rise-9-in-2012/ [9 Oct. 2013].
7.

GD Star Rating
loading...
Dubai Residency Visa: Medical & Blood Tests are a Waste of Time, 6.3 out of 10 based on 4 ratings

, , , , , , , , , , , , Middle East, Thoughts, Travel

20 Comments → “Dubai Residency Visa: Medical & Blood Tests are a Waste of Time”

  1. shameem 3 years ago   Reply

    If a person arrives in UAE the hep c is appear positive then he return back or stay

  2. shameem 3 years ago   Reply

    Sir I m very thankful to u for your reply sir I apply a visa for counstrion company npc and I m suffer in hep c sir you sugess me I m come in dubai for work or not pls reply any conssion for this problem.

    • Dr. Shem 3 years ago   Reply

      Unfortunately I’m not qualified to give you advice on whether you should or should not come to Dubai. You may want to speak to the UAE embassy in your home country to understand the risks (if any).

  3. Malik Mudassar 3 years ago   Reply

    Thanks Doc, I really appreciated your detailed post. Almost 2 years in Dubai, meeting different kind of people, observing opinions, studying Facts, I am way too convinced with every single word of your claim :)

    • Anita 2 years ago   Reply

      Hi Mr. mudassar , can I get ur Email ID on which I can ask you solution for problem …..pls

    • Anita 2 years ago   Reply

      Hi Mr. mudassar , I have old tb scars but no active tb will I get employee visa I’m in fujeirah nw after few days I hv medical n I m worried a lot pls suggest something

  4. Afraz Ali 3 years ago   Reply

    sir i wnt to khnow that if a person has hepatitis b and his PCR repot in not dected then he come UAE or not

  5. Dr Mua 3 years ago   Reply

    HI Dr. Its ok for me that the UAE carry out all the medical test for all people who needs a work visa but i think it should limited for HIV and not for curable diseases. i also think the UAE should relax her time for issuing employment visas for foreigners. most companies illegally issue fake over letters to people just to have them exit when they do the employment visas never comes. the uae government should look into this very careful Take care doctor.

  6. M.Jahangir 3 years ago   Reply

    Sir you wrote that hapatitice c no longer tested for anyone it means that if a person come to dubai and found hcv + , he will be permited to live or work.

  7. DR. Gregory A Mutunga 3 years ago   Reply

    Hey,
    I was to come to Dubai on a contract basis. Requirements were for me to do a medical tests since I was successful in all other interviews. Unfortunately my Xray had a lesion on the left side, the doctor made a conclusion that:
    ” left midzone granuloma, midzone opacity,right
    pleural thickening”
    My worry is, am told DHA will unfit you on any chest abnormality even if it is not related to TB. I am TB free with no history of it at all.
    what can you advice me kindly?

    • Dr. Shem 3 years ago   Reply

      Unfortunately I’m not able to give out medical advice online. You’re best to speak to a health professional in Dubai.

  8. Harry Fit 3 years ago   Reply

    Hey what about cases of minimal pleural effusion that are lifetime and it resulted from pneumonia? is it deporteble as well, I have had it since 2006 my doctor said its harmless to no one. Advice thanks

  9. waqar ul islam 2 years ago   Reply

    Hi everyone,

    i gave test at knowledge village and after 2 weeks they said come to muhaisnah medical center for retest and when i go there they take my blood and ask for sputum test which was clearly unethical and unhealthy. They were very rude and how they are taking samples its another story of shame, after all this they say we have found something in your x-ray so it must be TB we will give report to your PRO, but instead of any medical report they give a medical certificate in which they stated this person is not eligible to stay in emirate because of old tb vision found. I don’t what will they do to me now even i don’t think they will give me safe passage to go home. Best of luck for me

  10. Afzal Ahmed 2 years ago   Reply

    Sir i am afzal and i want to ask you that my left side eye is an artificial.can i face any problem in dubai air port or in dubai for job?please inform me.

    • Dr. Shem 2 years ago   Reply

      Afzal, I’m pretty sure that your artificial eye won’t matter as long as the job you are applying for does not require the perception of depth. For instance, taxi drivers would require full depth perception. You would be best to talk to the UAE embassy in your home country before traveling.

  11. venkat 2 years ago   Reply

    i passed all test for abu dhabi visa in my country but there is no tb but in my child age the left hand lung having with mild infection its showing on x-ray but its not active i am perfect ct scan also done here doctor saying there is no tb nothing you perfect no need to take tablets its old infection there is tb Bactria can please help me

  12. Vijay Ram 2 years ago   Reply

    Hi, I got job in dubai as IT Engineer but I have asthma from last 1 and half year. Now i’m fine. bt some medicines i take during climate change, So will i clear test?? It is Technical job, going through emloyement visa.

Leave a Reply