New rules have come into effect in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for expats apply to renew their residency visas.
A recent utility bill, a tenancy contract and a valid telephone number are among the documents now required by the General Department of Naturalisation and Foreign Affairs.
The changes follow on the back of the UAE’s ID card scheme designed to integrate information from labour cards, visas and other ID documents aimed at making government transactions easier.
Each card contains the holder’s address, photo, date of birth and fingerprints, and can be used as an official source of identification in the Gulf state.
The Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) last week extended the deadline for Dubai residents to register for the cards to June 30. EIDA said it received 3.3 million transactions for issuing ID cards over the first five months of 2012 including one million in May.
The organisation has faced an uphill struggle in convincing UAE residents to sign up for mandatory identification cards, despite announcing a series of deadlines for applications.
The changes come at a time when there is growing concern about the lack of knowledge among expat about living in the region, including customs and traditions. A survey by 999 magazine, the monthly publication of the Ministry of Interior, showed that seven out of 10 expats lack knowledge of UAE local customs and traditions.
The survey, which asked 2,000 expats about their level of cultural awareness, shows that despite the abundance of learning resources and materials available, some 72% of expats know little about their host country.
Only 28% of respondents had any real knowledge of the country’s local customs and traditions and just a third of the respondents set aside enough time to find out about the UAE’s culture, while the rest were comfortable with occasional glimpses. Some 11% confessed they never really bothered trying.
There have been a number of headlines recently about young people holding drinking parties and women drinking and kissing men in public. In the magazine the British ambassador to the UAE urged expats and tourists to understand dress codes in the country and advised parents to be more vigilant in protecting their kids from the possible harm emanating from the internet.
‘The vast majority of expats living here dress entirely appropriately, and I think that most British people who live here or visit here get it absolutely right. It is really important for expats and tourists to understand the norms of the society they are in,’ he explained.
He said that a lot of work is being done to educate people including working with schools.
‘It is about having a really good time and getting the best out of your experience, but doing so in a way that is entirely appropriate,’ he added.