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Tue 7 Jul 2009 08:13 AM

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Expats seeking UAE residency set to face culture test

Federal National Council plans new committee to look at improving expat understanding.

Expats seeking UAE residency set to face culture test
EXPAT TEST: Expats seeking residency visas for the UAE will in future have to pass a culture test. (Getty Images)

Expats wishing to apply for residency visas for the UAE will in future have to pass a local culture test before their application is approved, it was reported on Tuesday.

The move comes after the Federal National Council (FNC) called for expats to have a better awareness of UAE values and traditions.

A committee will be set up by October to develop strategies to improve cultural understanding among expatriates, Ahmed Shabeeb Al Dhahiri, First Deputy Speaker of the FNC said in comments published by UAE daily Khaleej Times.

“Too many people don’t know anything about our culture — there are many nationalities — and every resident needs to know something about this country,” Al Dhahiri told the paper.

The committee will comprise members from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development, Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Al Dhahiri said members will draw up a series of questions that will comprise a test that expatriates must pass to get their residency visa.

The committee will also establish a guide to the country’s traditions that will be issued to local embassies and consulates while the support of the media would also be sought to raise cultural awareness levels among expats, he added.

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Borat 11 years ago

This is a very valid step .. to try and learn about the UAE culture before we apply for a residency ...very good move congrats UAE but honestly wat culture do u have ?? is there any staple food for the UAE - NO most emiratis eat lebanese,indian and chinese food . Do they have any historical site - NO jus a bunch of concrete jungles .. do they PPL ( young emiratis ) speak their mother tongue ( arabic ) - NO they act and dress more like foreigners ( they dont speak arabic a lot ) In short the Starbucks culture they are follwing is bad .. so i suggest the goverment set up a test for the Locals to see if they know their culture properly first

The Consultant 11 years ago

This is a good move in principle, but I think it could do with a bit of tweaking. For a start, you cannot really expect people arriving fresh in the region to know much about the local culture on day 1; in many cases the first step will be to dispel much of the misinformation that they have been fed beforehand before they can learn the real facts. People need to get their residence visas processed quickly so that they can get their lives set up: renting a property, buying a car, kids into school etc. so any test that has to be carried out beforehand would have to be at such a basic level it becomes meaningless, or you end up with huge delays in getting visas processed and major inconvenience to the individuals, their families and their employers. Perhaps it would be better to set a slightly more detailed curriculum, covering history, culture, taboos and maybe 100 words of basic Arabic, on the stipulation that the person must sit the test within a certain time (say 6 months from the visa being granted) and a re-test on the Arabic every three years when the visa is renewed. They key thing is to get a standardised course set up, which can be provided by any approved private college, and by law this should be paid for by the employer (a standard course allows for healthy price competition between suppliers). By forcing new arrivals to learn a bit of basic Arabic, a much higher percentage of people will go on to learn more of the language, which can only be a good thing from an integration point of view. N.B. There needs to be a cut-off point below which the test is not required; for example, given that most labourers generally live between the building site and their labour camp, with little interaction with the general population, there would be very little value in forcing them to undertake a cultural awareness course.

Mounir 11 years ago

Borat: you are exactly the kind of person targeted by this move. Hang out with a local for just one week and you will see that there is a lot of local culture and traditions involved in their lives on a daily basis.

Faraz 11 years ago

A good move; and totally agree with Mounir on this. Borat: UAE is not just about Dubai and Abu Dhabi... For a starter; have you ever ventured out towards Fujairah/Hatta/Dibba/Masafi?? or for that matter the small satellite townships of capital like Al Rahba; Baniyas etc... Most probably you haven't.. Basically you prove the point more vehemently that the test is really needed.

MD 11 years ago

Proper thought needs to be given to this before it is implemented. Otherwise it will only cause delays and frustration for expats who are already quite burdened.

Lolly 11 years ago

Borat, if you think so, then you shouldn't have problems in passing the test :) Basic notions are fundamental to respect the country and to allow people to live together on common rules. Other countries are doing the same (see countries in Europe), why shouldn't UAE do the same? Probably you are one of those thinking that the UAE is only about desert, camels and hotels....

JULIA 11 years ago

this will cause lot more problems and hassles. people will spend time and money to learn and give test-perhaps big queue to sit for exams. will cause lot more disappointment and frustration. in the end people learn only to pass exams and ignore or forget real way to learn culture is make it voluntary by all means send invitations and distribute videos and make cultural shows and tv prog and let people learn voluntarily and freely and relaxing ly great way to learn is for UAE people to mix with expatriates and invite them for lunch -dinner and make them appreciate culture and hospitality this will promot genuine aprciaetiaon and understanding

Mart 11 years ago

"Borat: you are exactly the kind of person targeted by this move. Hang out with a local for just one week and you will see that there is a lot of local culture and traditions involved in their lives on a daily basis." I'd love to do that I really would. I'm learning Arabic (very basic), and I've love the chance to meet locals. But its difficult to do this on a social level. Perhaps what the UAE needs more than a cultural test of new arrivals is some kind of forum where expats can meet locals and learn more about the country and culture from them?

N 11 years ago

Don't other countries give you that sort of test when you're applying for citizenship, rather than residency? And are they talking about the residency visa that's renewable every 6 months, which makes you feel more like a long-term guest rather than a permanent resident?

Doug 11 years ago

Yes, it's called the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding....