Research Paper By Alexandra Nery
(Expat Living and Transition Coach, DUBAI)
Research paper on skilled expatriate migrant families, focusing on the logistical paperwork and on the difficulties women and children face when relocating to the Middle East when the husband is in full-time employment.
In the last decade or less, there has been a huge surge of expat families, and migrants relocating into the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which is essentially a political and economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman Gulf Community Countries. This is due to many reasons: war, famine, globalization, natural disasters, employment, or purely over choice in the search for a better life from their natural birthplace.
For this particular paper, I will be researching, in particular, the migrant expat families particularly in focus on women and children. They are on a sponsored visa, from their husbands that are the wife can not work. The husband is on a skilled, resident visa and is given to them by their employer or sponsor which is responsible for them within the country.
To begin with, the word expatriate can be seen and defined as below from Wikipedia :
- 'A person who lives outside their native country' (Oxford), or
- 'living in a foreign land' (Webster's).
These contrast with definitions of other words with a similar meaning, such as:
- 'A person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions' (Oxford), or
- 'one that migrates: such as a: a person who moves regularly in order to find work especially in harvesting crops' (Webster's);or
- 'A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country' (Oxford), or
- 'one that immigrates: such as a: a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence (Webster's).
The first step that these particular families need to obtain to move from their country of birth or origin into another country is a work contract from a company based there. These contracts usually range between 1 to 5 years.
Visa status, Work Contracts, Health Checks
These are split into two types :
1.Resident working visa :
- to which can be used to rent an apartment/house
- Open a bank account
- Obtain a driving license
- Health Insurance
- Freely enter and exit the country.
Skilled: A University degree has been obtained and needs to be attested by the Embassy or Consulate.
Unskilled: Job does not require any literal skills – This in itself is difficult as some skilled workers have worked their way up the career ladder without any degree yet on pure experience.
However, the difference in salaries is reflected from skilled to unskilled.
Once the skilled resident visa working contract has been offered from the company to the individual needs to have all his academic papers attested by the consulate of their home country and relocation country
- Marriage certificates: A man and woman can not legally live under the same roof or have children unless they are married as the GCC countries are under the Sharia law which is that for Muslims, one in which marriage is an important factor in the Quran and must be respected.
- When a couple has a child at the hospital, under Sharia law, they must be married hence the attested marriage certificate needs to be shown to facilitate the visa process for the child as well as being able to take the newborn home.
- University degree: this shows that the individual is a skilled professional worker and is literate.
Once these documents have been attested and accepted the employment contract is legally put into place and benefits can be appetizing but usually vary from the company, country, and position but the basic offer
- a base salary
- Visa for the sponsor (husband not wife/children)
- Basic healthcare to the sponsor (husband - not dependants/wife and children)
- One round trip ticket back to their (passport) home country
- Apart from airline country pilots: accommodation for the family/ education fees, health insurance, utility bills are covered
The family may be covered in the health insurance and flights back depending on if they are offered an international package or local package :
- local being a base salary, that the individual is moving from one company to another regardless if it's from city to city.
- international being that they had to relocate from another country and finally
- if the position within the new company is in C level i.e CEO the contract can be slightly different.
Over the years, however, the expat family packages covering the entire family (health insurance/visa/education) are extremely scarce to find in the Middle East as the M.E has become a place where families want to relocate too as it is relatively safe, there are great opportunities for the employees to grow alongside the company and most people are happy to move, regardless of the expat package which may cause problems down the line as the lack of research made on their behalf such as the cost of education, rent, cost of living has been overlooked. In other countries that are sadly war-torn and dangerous, most families will not put their families at risk, hence the packages offered to the husband can be high as an incentive and to compensate for this risk of danger. Once the contracts have been exchanged, accepted, and signed and the family is in the country the next round of paperwork are the health checks towards the family, no one is exempt from this. It is when the individuals visit a clinic or hospital and blood tests are made to rule out HIV and lung x rays are made to rule out tuberculosis. Once the health checks have been passed as well as the marriage and university degrees attested the physical visa is processed fairly quickly and is offered to the husband and then to the dependents/sponsored as you can see below.
‘To be able to obtain a work/residence permit, foreign nationals need to be free of all forms of communicable diseases such as HIV and TB.
In addition, the following categories of workers should test negative for syphilis and Hepatitis B:
- Workers in nurseries
- Domestic workers including housemaids, nannies, and drivers
- Food handlers and workers in restaurants and cafes
- Workers in saloons and beauty centers
- Workers in health clubs
Female domestic workers must test negative for pregnancy.’
Fears on health checks and visas, how to coach the logistical part of the move as a skilled expat family
As stated above there are many obstacles, paperwork, and logistics to complete for a family to move, this naturally takes its toll on the family as they are going into unchartered territory and fears begin to show up as uncertainties. Where I usually start with these families is to ask them :
- how they are feeling and that usually helps them express their excitement or fears to each other and me,
from there the communication begins to unfold and I can follow it up with The wheel of life so they can see a birds-eye point of view of which areas they would like to start focusing on and with open-ended questions are asked such as :
- as what it would look like to have all the paperwork organized and ready and have they thought on who would be in charge - I coach her through obstacles she may have for example marriage certificates if they can not find this at home, how they could replace it same as the university degrees.
- Can they remember a situation similar to this in which the bureaucratic and logistical paperwork had to be organized systematically and how they had faced it?
- What types of insurance are on offer for the family members if they are not covered, are all your needs met, if not what can be done?
- Hypothetically if medical tests are not passed what could be done and who would you be able to reach out for support and guidance?
- What guidance has the company offered or provided?
- What about embassies and consulates?
On the emotional side: What are the usual fears and struggles women and children face once in the country?
The usual fears which they face as individuals or as a family are highlighted from International Citizens are :
- Having a hard time fitting in
- Struggling with the new language/culture/religion
- Worried about housing
- Worried about money
However, this just scratches the surface for the children as they may feel in other areas, such as leaving their friends behind, not having any friends once they arrive at their new destination which can take its toll on their psyche as they can no longer relate to children who are not from the same background, going even further that they lose their identity. Bullying may happen as can isolation however these two issues can be overcome and tackled through open communication between the parents and teachers/schools and communities that they live in. In some case when the families want to return to their countries of origin, as their identities have been changed to that of an expat life the reintegration process becomes a struggle as common habits and jargon ceases to exist and in some cases, this can lead to depression due to failure to adapt into their new habitat – this is hypothetical.
Usually, the women are the ones who take on the burden towards the social, financial, and emotional side of the children of the families, while the husbands solely focus on the job at hand. In turn, this too can affect the psyche of the wife and husband relationship, more so in sometimes trickling onto the children as they begin to shape their personalities and these children seem to adapt the name of third culture children that are born abroad and settle into another country. Studies have shown that although they score higher on the dimension of Open-Mindedness and Cultural Empathy and scored lower on Emotional Stability.
The next logical step is to agree to the terms offered and start their expat life. Some search for better schools for their children, better healthcare, more exposure to different languages, cultures, and a way to work up the working ladder for promotions in addition to traveling the world within the company as a family the search or goal varies from family to family. The initial feelings can be of a mix, one of euphoria another of fear however the common baseline is that relocation some women (not all seem) seem the dread of uplifting and moving their lives to the next country as the whole procedure from packing, moving, relocating their belongings, looking for child care or schools, buying uniforms, looking for transport all fall into their lap.
What tools are used to coach expat women and children towards their fears and struggles?
Once the subject has been determined from the list above, take for example the loneliness or not being able to fit in, or struggling with new culture or language they all come from feelings. To be able to support them in gaining confidence I try to reframe their perspective, which I usually ask what do they know about the city/ country and from there go outdoors to discover their new habitat
- let it be visiting a landmark,
- go to the cinema
- visit a museum,
- play in the park
- visit a new neighborhood
- Take part in a cooking class or language
The aim is to look forward to doing something together and getting out and about with a goal in mind. In addition, harness memories subconsciously will begin to construct a mind map of the city/ town they are in and be able to find something in common when they begin to meet another expat or local there or in conversation. Following this, once home to write a journal and for the children to make a collage once they return home maybe with placing the cinema ticket in it, or a leaf from the park.
To conclude moving from country to country or city to city or just down the road is never easy, being able to put things in perspective through open-ended questions, the wheel of life, and other models depending on what is needed makes the transition more informative, hence clearer move forwards.
Jean-Marc Dewaele & Jan Pieter van Oudenhoven (2009) The effect of multilingualism/multiculturalism on personality: no gain without pain for Third Culture Kids?, International Journal of Multilingualism, 6:4, 443-459, DOI: 10.1080/14790710903039906
The Effect of Multilingualism/Multiculturalism on Personality: No Gain without Pain for Third Culture Kids?
Dewaele, Jean-Marc; van Ouden
1 The definition of Expats .https://en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Expatriate
International:https://www.internationalcitizens.hoven, Jan Pieter
International Journal of Multilingualism, v6 n4 p443-459 Nov 2009
 The effect of multilingualism/multiculturalism on personality: no gain without pain for Third Culture Kids?