Wednesday, December 9, 2009

À la recherche d’une iqama/In search of an iqama

By Chiara

An example of an Iqama or residency visa (not Sid Ahmed's)
Un exemplaire d'une Iqama ou visa de résident(e) (pas celle de Sid Ahmed)

This post is a little different because it is written in English and French in order both to allow the subject to express himself in his own language, and to hopefully help other Francophone non-Saudis in search of information on marriage to a Saudi and the spousal iqama.

 
Ce post diffère un peu des autres car il est rédigé en anglais et en français afin de permettre au sujet de s’exprimer dans sa propre langue, aussi bien que dans l’espérance d’aider d’autres étrangers francophones à la recherche de renseignements sur le mariage à un Saoudien ou à une Saoudienne, et sur l’iqama conjugale.

Sid Ahmed, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, graciously accepted my invitation to share his story of marrying a Saudi wife, in the hopes of inspiring others and receiving further help himself. His story follows in his own words with my translation to English.

Sid Ahmed, un Français d’origine Algérienne, a accepté gracieusement, mon invitation à partager son histoire de se marier avec une Saoudienne, dans l’espérance de servir d’inspiration à d’autres et de recevoir plus d’aide lui-même. Son histoire en ses propres mots suit, ainsi que ma traduction en anglais.


Salam, et bonjour à tous,

Salam and good day to all,

Comme Chiara vous l’a annoncé, je vais vous raconter mon histoire afin que certains parmi vous puissent en bénéficier, et d'autres puissent nous aider à trouver une ou des solutions pour obtenir ce fameux trésor qui est l'iqama.

As Chiara announced to you, I will tell you my story so that some of you may benefit, and others may help us find one or more solutions to obtain this famous treasure that is the iquama.

Mon histoire commence par l’épreuve tragique qu’a été le décès de ma première épouse (Allah y rhamha). De cette union nous avons eu 2 magnifiques enfants machallah. D’un coup, j’ai compris l’immensité du rôle d'une femme et d'une mère dans un foyer, bien que j'en était conscient auparavant. Néanmoins, le fait de se retrouver dans ce genre de situation ne faisait qu'affirmer ce sentiment. Beaucoup ne se rendent pas compte du bonheur qu'ils ont devant eux. Pour ma part, je considère la femme comme la lumière et l'âme d'une maison, et lorsqu’elle disparaisse vous perdez tout sens de repère.

My story begins with the tragedy that was the death of my first wife (Allah y rhamha). This marriage had produced 2 magnificent children, Mashallal. Suddenly, I understood the immensity of the role of a wife and mother in a home, even though I was aware if it previously. Nonetheless, the fact of finding myself in this type of situation only reinforced this feeling. Many fail to realize the happiness they have before them. As for me, I consider a woman as the light and soul of a home, and when she disappears you lose all sense of orientation.

Lors de ses derniers moments, mon épouse a eu un courage exemplaire en me disant, «Prend soin de toi et des enfants. J'ai été heureuse avec toi, mais le temps est venu pour moi de partir. Alors, va vivre là où tu te sentiras bien, car les enfants s’y sentiront bien aussi. Prend le temps de ton deuil, puis remarie-toi. »

During her final moments, my wife showed exemplary courage in saying to me, “Take care of yourself and the children. I have been happy with you, but the time has come for me to leave. So, go live where you will be happy, as the children will be happy there too. Take the time for grieving, and then remarry.

Mes enfants ont beaucoup d'amour pour leur maman et moi-même, car leur maman était comme ça d'ailleurs. En fait, dans ma lourde épreuve que j'ai vécue et que je vis encore, mes enfants sont restés très aimables. Ils comprennent le sens de la vie, de la mort, et du destin. Ils sont très avancés pour leur âges tendres. Ils ont bien compris le décès de leur maman et savent qu’un homme ne peut pas vivre sans femme, et qu’eux-mêmes ne peuvent pas vivre « sans une belle maman », comme ils le disent. Et pour tout vous dire, ce sont eux qui m'ont poussé et motivé à me remarier.

My children have a great deal of love for their mother and for me, as their mother was loving like that. In fact, in the difficult travail that I lived, and that I continue to live, my children have remained very loving. They understand the meaning of life, of death, and of destiny. They are very advanced for their young ages. They understood well their mommy’s death and know that a man can not live without a wife, and that they too cannot live without “a beautiful mommy”, as they say [“une belle maman”, a beautiful mommy, as opposed to “une belle-mère”, a stepmother]. And to tell you the truth, it was they who pushed and motivated me to remarry.

Al hamdulilah, ma foi en Allah m'a permis de surmonter cette douloureuse épreuve, et de me dire que la vie continuait, et qu'il fallait m'occuper de mes enfants et de moi-même. Partant de ce noble sentiment, des amis Saoudiens attristés par mon épreuve se sont proposés à me présenter une femme de leur propre famille dans l'idée de nous marier. Après quelque temps de réflexion, je me suis mis d’accord.

Al hamdulillah, my faith in Allah allowed me to get on top of this painful travail, and to tell myself that life continued, and that I must take care of my children and myself. From that noble sentiment, some Saudi friends, saddened by my situation, came forward with the proposal to present one of the women from their family to me, with a view towards marriage. After a period of reflection, I agreed.


Dans un premier temps, nous avons pris contact par téléphone et avons continué à communiquer par internet. Les échanges étaient constructifs. Nous avions des points en commun sur l'idée qu'on a d'une vie à deux, et petit à petit des liens se sont noués. Mais il restait des obstacles à franchir, et tout d'abord l'accord du père pour un mariage éventuel.

At first, we had contact by telephone, and have continued to communicate by internet. The exchanges were constructive. We had ideas in common on the views we held about life as a couple; and little by little ties between us grew. However, there were still obstacles to overcome; and first of all, that of her father’s agreement to our eventual marriage.

Cela s'est fait par le biais de la famille, qui s'est chargée d'expliquer la situation. À ma grande surprise, et le père et la mère étaient d'accord sur le principe. Il me restait donc à me rendre en Arabie Saoudite afin de se connaître mutuellement, et de régler les usages, cest-à-dire les conditions et la dot.

This was accomplished through the efforts of the family, who took it upon themselves to explain the situation. To my great surprise, both father and mother agreed in principle. It only remained for me then to go to Saudi Arabia in order for us to get to know each other, and to take care of the customary matters, that is, the conditions and the dowry.

Premier défi!-- Comment se rendre en Arabie Saoudite, et avec quel visa? Avec beaucoup d'obstinations et quelques relations, j'ai pu obtenir un visa d'affaire de 6 mois. Quel bonheur! Je me suis rendu en Arabie Saoudite où j'ai pu rencontrer ma prétendante et sa famille, et me mettre d'accord sur le mariage.

First challenge!--With a lot of obstinacy, and some connections, I was able to obtain a 6-month business visa. What happiness! I went to Saudi Arabia where I was able to meet my intended and her family, and agree to the marriage.

Deuxième défi!--Maintenant, il fallait obtenir l'autorisation des autorités Saoudiennes, et là j’allais découvrir la complexité de la situation. Fidèle à moi-même, je me suis obstiné et par le biais de mes amis Saoudiens j'ai déposé un dossier en personne au Ministère de l'Intérieur. Au bout d'un mois, car le conseil de la « lejna » se réunit une fois par mois, j'ai reçu un avis favorable qui a été transmis au Ministère des Affaires Étrangères. J'ai réussi à avoir une copie--toujours par le biais de mes amis Saoudiens qui ont joué un rôle clé dans toute cette affaire.

Second challenge!--Now, it was necessary to obtain the authorization of the Saudi authorities; and there I was to discover the complexity of the situation. Faithful to my nature, I persisted, and with the help of my Saudi friends, I submitted my file in person to the Ministry of the Interior. At the end of a month, as the “lejna” council only meets once a month, I received a positive response which was transmitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I succeeded in obtaining a copy--again through the efforts of my Saudi friends who played a key role in this whole affair.

Troisième défi!--Fort de cet avis, je me suis dit que l'acte de mariage n'était qu'une formalité. Bien au contraire, je me suis heurté encore à l'administration qui me demandait une iqama, car il me fallait une iqama pour que je puisse obtenir de la police le document pour la prise de sang prénuptiale exigée ! Je m’y suis rendu avec mon futur beau-père, et là nous avons tellement insisté que le préposé a appelé à son supérieur, en lui expliquant notre situation. Ce dernier, je ne sais comment, peut-être par dépit, a finalement accepté de nous donner ce fameux papier qui me permettrait de me rendre à l'hôpital et d'effectuer les analyses sanguines requises.

Third challenge!--Strengthened by this approval, I thought to myself that the marriage act itself was just a formality. On the contrary, I again ran into another administration demand for an iqama, as I needed an iqama in order to obtain the police document allowing me to take the required prenuptial blood tests! I went there with my future father-in-law, and there we insisted so much that the person responsible called his superior to explain our situation. The latter, I don’t know how, perhaps out of desperation, finally agreed to give us the famous paper that would allow me to go to the hospital and have the necessary blood tests done.



Quatrième défi!--Je me suis rendu à l'hôpital pour effectuer les analyses de sang, et là, encore une fois, on exige de moi une iqama. Toujours aussi obstiné , je me suis efforcé à leur dire que j'avais le document de la police m'autorisant à pratiquer cet acte. Toujours sans savoir ni le comment ni le pourquoi, je suis arrivé à les convaincre. J'ai dû attendre 10 jours pour obtenir les résultats, qui heureusement étaient favorables. Al hamdulilah, je venais de remporter encore une fois une bataille.

Fourth challenge!--I went to the hospital to do the blood tests, and there again, I was asked for an iquama. Still as stubborn as usual, I forced myself to tell them that I had a document from the police authorizing this medical act. As always, without knowing the why or the wherefore, I was able to convince them. I had to wait 10 days to get the results, which happily were favourable. Al hamdulillah, I had just won another battle.

Cinquième défi!--Fort de mon autorisation et de mes résultats, il ne me restais plus qu'à prendre rendez-vous auprès d'un juge afin de légaliser et d’officialiser le mariage. Là encore, pour la constitution du dossier il fallait une iqama.Toujours aussi obstiné, et avec l'aide de mon futur beau-père dont je tiens à lui rendre hommage, nous avons pu obtenir un rendez-vous à la makhama (Palais de Justice). Et là, après une longue attente, nous nous sommes présentés devant un juge qui était en train de consulter notre dossier. Il m’a demandé si j'avais une iqama et je lui ai dit que non. Je ne sais toujours pas pourquoi, mais encore une fois après un instant de réflexion il nous a expliqué nos droits et devoirs, a demandé à chaque partie quels étaient les conditions, et si la dot a été réglée. Les témoins présents, le juge a accepté notre union et nous voilà officiellement mariés. Quel bonheur!

Fifth challenge!--Emboldened by my authorization and my results, it only remained for me to make an appointment with a judge in order to legalize and make official the marriage. There again, in order to create a file it was necessary to have an iqama. Still as determined as ever, and with the aid of my future father-in-law whom I wish to honour for his efforts, we were able to obtain an appointment at the makhama “City Hall”. And there, after a long wait, we were presented before a judge who was in the middle of reviewing our file. He asked me if I had an iqama, and I told him no. I still don’t know why, but again after a moment’s reflection he explained our rights and obligations to us, and asked each party what the conditions of marriage were, and if the dowry had been settled. With the witnesses present, the judge accepted our union, and there we were, officially married. What happiness!

Sixième défi!--Alors là, fort d'un acte de mariage, je me suis dit que je n'aurais aucun problême à obtenir mon iqama. Donc, sans m’en soucier, et dans l'euphorie et la hâte, j’ai loué un appartement, et je l’ai meublé afin de pouvoir m'y installer avec mon épouse et mes enfants. Lorsque j'étais toujours en Arabie Saoudite, on m'a laissé entendre qu'avec ce dossier de mariage envoyé à l'Ambassade à Paris, je pouvais obtenir un visa famille, puis retourner faire l'iqama à Riyadh. À ma grande surprise, en rentrant en France j'ai appris que j'avais été mal renseigner, et qu'en fait je ne pouvais pas obtenir ce fameux césame qui est l'iqama de la façon et avec les documents qu'on m'avait indiqués.

Sixth challenge!--So then, armed with a marriage certificate, I said to myself that I would have no problem obtaining an iqama. Therefore, without a worry, euphoric, and in a hurry, I rented an apartment and furnished it, in order to settle there with my wife and my children. When I was still in Saudi Arabia, I was led to believe that with this marriage file sent to the Embassy in Paris, I would be able to obtain a family visa, then return to Riyadh to get an iqama. To my great surprise, on returning to France I learned that I had been misinformed, and that in fact I could not obtain this famous “open sesame” that is the iqama, in the manner and with the documents that had been indicated to me.



Vous savez, après réflexion j'ai compris que dans mon histoire le "je ne sais pas pourquoi" était la volonté d'Allah qui a voulu me faciliter les démarches.
Toutes louanges et remerciements reviennent à Allah, car tout m'était défavorable, comme quoi sa volonté est immense.

You know, on reflection I understood that in my story the «I don’t know why» was the will of Allah who wished to facilitate my efforts. All praise and thanks come back to Allah, as all was against me, evidence of the immensity of His will.

Voilà mon histoire que j'ai voulu partager avec vous. Mes sincères remerciements, Chiara.

This is my story, one that I wanted to share with you. My sincerest thanks, Chiara.

Salam ahlaykoum.
Sid Ahmed

Salam ahlaykoum
Sid Ahmed



Here is a summary of the recommendations to speed up the process of obtaining a spousal iqama,

1. Write a kitab (Request letter to grant permission for Iqama for your husband or wife) c/o to Prince Ahmad Naib.
2. Submit application with rest of the doc's in the MOI head office in Riyadh
3. Within 10 days IA you will get the positive feedback. System is getting better in this country.
4. Finally fulfilled rest of the formalities for IQAMA from jawazaat.
5. Always keep positive faith, do your best to leave the rest on Allah
6. See the other posts on this blog under the keyword iqama at the right of the screen


Voici un résumé des conseils pour obtenir une iqama conjugale,

1) Le Saoudien ou la Saoudienne doit écrire un kitab (une lettre de supplication) au Prince Ahmad Naib au sujet de son désir d’une iqama par mariage pour l’époux ou l’épouse.
2) Cette personne-là doit soumettre la formule de demande et les documents requis au Ministère de l’Intérieur, à Riyadh.
3) Une réponse au positif devrait suivre dans les 10 jours, car le pays fait du progrès en bureaucracie, et en temps écoulé entre demande et réponse
4) Il reste à compléter les autre formules nécessaires fixées par le jawazaat.
5) Garder la foi et faire confiance en Allah
6) Voir les autres postes sous le mot clé iqama sur la droite de l’écran.

followed by a list of required papers for the Ministry of the Interior derived from this excellent article on the spousal iqama for the non-Saudi husband of a Saudi woman:

suivi d`une liste de documents requis par the Ministère de l’Intérieur dérivée de cet article excellent sur l’iqama pour l’époux non-Saoudien d’une Saoudienne:

1) a letter to the Minister requesting an iqama for her husband to accompany her in the country as a mahrem (legal male guardian)
2) a copy of the marriage permit
3) a copy of the marriage contract
4) a copy of the Saudi wife’s ID
5) a copy of the husband’s passport


1) une lettre de la part de la Saoudienne addressee au Ministre de l'Intérieur où elle demande une iqama pour que le mari étranger l'accompagne dans le pays en tant que mahrem
2) une copie de la permission pour le mariage
3) une copie du contrat de mariage
4) une copie de la carte d'identité de la femme Saoudienne
5) une copie du passeport du mari étranger



I would like to thank Sid Ahmed for sharing his touching, at times sad, and ultimately joyous story with us.

Je tiens à remercier Sid Ahmed pour avoir partagé son histoire touchante, parfois triste, mais joyeuse à la fin, avec nous.

Thank you all in advance for any thoughts and comments you would like to share.

Je vous remercie d’avance pour les pensées et les commentaires que vous aimeriez partager.

7 comments:

Puça said...

He's sorted out all challenges, so for sure he will again, hope someone helps him to ormulate the kitab.
Despite all, he's been lucky in his life, so just persist and you'll get it!
September 11, 2009 5:46 PM

Chiara said...

Puça--thank you for your lovely comment, and sentiment. I do hope some Saudi readers volunteer their epistolary talents! :)
September 11, 2009 6:48 PM

NidalM said...

While I don't personally have much experience addressing Saudi princes formally (most of my meetings with them have been in very informal settings, at university or at a comedy show), I would assume that you will be having this letter translated to Arabic before being sent.

I would suggest having an Arabic speaker, preferably someone with local knowledge, to formulate the letter for you without the translating step. I would also suggest keeping it first person to add a personal touch, since you are asking for favor and not through a government process.

Again, I don't know how this would translate directly into formal Arabic but I'll try to shoot with an outline. I have asked some Saudi friends for help so hopefully I'll get a response on whether there is a better way to deal with this.

To Amir Ahmad Naib (full name)

Your Royal Highness,

I am [full name], and I write to you asking you're favor regarding my residence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

[Brief outline of story: You've married a Saudi national, have all approvals and support from family, government, judges].

I am now applying for an Iqama so that me and my children can live with my wife and our newfound family. As you are aware, obtaining this permit is not very easy for a foreigner not arriving for employment, and I humbly request your favor in initiating this process.

Your Servant,
...

Again, there is a lot of 'padding' that must be put in. Arabic letters have a lot of formalities and it is very unlikely that english greetings will cross the language barrier too easily.
September 12, 2009 12:31 AM

NidalM said...

I would also like to add that there are other avenues available.

You can obtain a "free visa" that allows you to come into Saudi Arabia without the need of a sponsor (but these tend to be expensive).

Another option is to come under a paid sponsor. These will handle the necessary paperwork for you and you will arrive under the title of employment. A monthly fee is paid to maintain your status, however, it is important to find a good sponsor as there have been numerous stories of abuse.
September 12, 2009 12:33 AM

NidalM said...

I seem to be spamming here (sorry!), but I got a response to my questions:

[From CivilLizard , via Twitter] These issues are handled by the Ministry of Interior that has to be followed in Saudi. Royals can only give passive recommendations. The recommendation has 2b justified with specific reasons, then it hold 20% weight at the most.. the rest is the important stuff. Doesn't work well from outside the country, should be seeked by the Saudi party, not by your friend.
September 12, 2009 1:15 AM

Chiara said...

NidalM--thank you so much for your recommendations, and sample letter, as well as seeking the advice from your friends.

I would agree with your recommendation of an Arabic speaker drafting one directly into Arabic, and that the English be the translated copy, if there is need. To be legal, documents must be signed with knowledge of the content and certified, notarized translations are usually required. However, in this case since the Saudi wife is in fact the petitioner, no English copy is needed except for the husband's information. Also the letter is best addressed from her in the first person singular, "I", as she is the one asking for the conjugal Iqama for her spouse.

I also agree that rhetorically Arabic has a great many more flourishes and formalities than English, and may seem even somewhat arcane in translation, but these would be customary in such a letter.

I would amend your excellent (to my ears) sample letter, as you suggested, to read from the wife's perspective: "I am [full name] and I write to you asking your favor regarding my husband's residence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."; and, "so that my husband and his children may live with me and form a new family". It would also be important to include in the body of the letter that Sid Ahmed has his own means of support while residing in the KSA, or for someone else to state their financial circumstances (i.e. not asking for support from the state).

Your suggestions about other types of visa are helpful too, although the expensive "free visa" (free as in open or independent, I assume) is an interesting verbal twist LOL :); and you are wise to caution about being very selective with a paid sponsor.

As Mohammad, the original commentator, suggested, and Sid Ahmed is intending, this kitab would be only an adjunct to the MOI process, not sufficient unto itself. It is very good to have CivilLizard confirm this, and offer a weighting to the impact of such a letter. Still, 20% can be the difference between a pass or a fail, and a slow or a fast, so every little bit helps.

Your friend is also right imo in that it should at least seem as if the Saudi party is the author of the letter, and might be best handled by Sid Ahmed's wife with the help of her family members.

Our thanks to you and your friend, CivilLizard, and to any of the others who might contribute later. No worries about numbers or lengths of comments, Tara is very generous in such matters (luckily for me LOL :) ).

I have 2 questions of anyone:
1) Does everyone contact the same Prince, or would the Prince vary by geographical region, province, municipality;
2) Does the Saudi wife write the letter or does her Saudi mahrem? or do both of them?

I look forward to any answers, and to further such excellent suggestions and comments.
September 12, 2009 3:25 AM

Chiara said...

A reader sent a comment by email directly to me, seconding the thoughts of CivilLizard in NidalM's comment above--that the kitab would only have minimal impact, and the MOI process is more important.

Another reader suggested by email to me that a Saudi-based lawyer would be the best person to prepare the kitab, and in Arabic.

Hmmm, 2 very shy readers with great comments? LOL :)
September 16, 2009 2:31 AM

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