UAE Expats: What You Need to Know Before Processing a Name Change

February 18, 2016

There are several reasons why people have to undergo name change.  It could be due to an annulment/ divorce, religious conversion, transgender issue, or maybe, they just don't feel like keeping their birth name (because it sounds embarrassing).  However, the most common and perhaps, the sweetest reason of all is  M A R R I A G E.

It has been a part of our Filipino culture for women to legally take their husband's last name after marriage.  So when my old passport (that has my maiden name in it) had expired, I decided to process a name change and began using my husband's surname.  After all, that's really the way it should be, right?

I was actually hesitant to do it at first because all my legal documents here in the UAE -- visa, emirates ID, health insurance policy, etc. -- were under my maiden name.  However, since our online resources, as well as the people we know who had undergone the same process, said there would be no problem with it, we proceeded with changing my last name.

It's true, we never had encountered any problem with me bearing a new passport under my married name while my other UAE documents were still in my maiden name. In fact, I was able to travel to the Philippines twice without having issues of using different surnames in my passport (in married name) and visa (in maiden name). 

Until recently, when it's already time to renew my residence visa.  My husband's employer, which was supposed to process the renewal, could no longer do it because according to the immigration, my residence visa was under a "different" name (compared to the name I'm using in my new passport).  So instead of renewing my visa, what we did was to apply for a change of visa status (to cancel my old visa and apply for a new entry permit), which took a lot of money and effort.

That's the reason why I decided to write about this learning experience -- so I can provide information among newly married expats who are confused of whether or not they should change their surname to that of their husband's.  Because truthfully, had I known that it's going to be this expensive and tedious to change name, perhaps, I could have just kept my maiden name.  

Anyway, in case you had your name changed already prior to reading this blog, then just allow me to share with you the process of APPLYING FOR A NEW ENTRY PERMIT: 

1.  At any typing center, apply for Cancellation of Visa (AED 100)
2.  Proceed to Immigration for cancellation of existing visa (surrender emirates ID and they will stamp "cancelled" on your visa)
3. Take the cancellation paper with you to the Typing center and apply for a new entry permit (AED 360)
4. Submit the new entry permit application form to the Immigration along with the following requirements:
    4.1.  Marriage Certificate duly attested by the UAE embassy in home country and stamped by the  UAE foreign affairs (to be presented for verification)
    4.2.  Arabic Translation of Marriage Certificate (AED 60)
    4.3.  Copy of Sponsor's passport and visa
    4.4.  Sponsor's salary certificate
    4.5.  Copy of tenancy contract
    4.6.  Copy of utility bill or certificate of active account from ADDC (call their customer service and they will email you the certificate for free)
    4.7.  Passport size picture with white background
- Wait for the new entry visa to be released. (The system may take a few hours to update, so if you came in late, it may take the following day to release your visa.  Hours of operation is from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm)
5.  Go to a typing center and apply for a Change of Status form, if you wish not to exit UAE (AED 570); otherwise, you will be required to physically leave the country and enter once more using the new visa. (If you choose to exit, proceed with step #7)
6.  Immigration will process your application and stamp your new entry visa and change of status form
7.  Apply for Residence Visa Stamping on passport at any typing center (AED 560)
8.  Submit the following documents to the Immigration office in order for the new entry visa to be stamped on your passport:
    8.1.  Entry permit with change of status stamp
    8.2.  Change of status form
    8.3.  Emirates ID registration form (AED 340; valid for 3 years)
    8.4.  SEHA medical certificate (AED 250)
    8.5.  Health Card
    8.6.  Copy of tenancy contract
    8.7.  Passport photo with white background
    8.8.  Photocopy of sponsor's passport and visa 
    8.9.  Applicant's passport

***This procedure is applicable ONLY for people whose sponsor is working in government-owned companies.  In addition, the above mentioned prices apply to all URGENT applications (same day processing) only.  Normal applications would take 2 - 3 days processing and may have different pricing.
Overall, we spent AED 2,240 and my husband had to go back and forth the typing center and immigration office (only sponsors were allowed to process the application) in order to have my new residence visa reflect my married name.  It was indeed a big hassle!  So should you wish to spare yourself from all the unnecessary work and expenses, then just keep whatever name you have on your existing UAE visa and forget about changing your last name!

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