Once you have your residency or work visa in place and before you can get your residency permit, you need to get a health card to legitimately remain in Dubai.  The health card does come with some advantages, but most see it as just another hurdle – and quite an expensive one – to getting set up in Dubai.

The health card entitles you to subsidised medical treatment at some state run facilities, but the vast majority of expatriates actually have a comprehensive private medical insurance policy in place to cover them whilst they are in the UAE.  This is sensible for two key reasons, one the standard and availability of care is generally wider and of a higher standard at the private clinics and two, in time it is expected that some form of private health insurance policy for expats will become compulsory in the UAE.

In this article we’ll explain how you go about getting your health card, which hospitals you have to go to for the paperwork, and where you take your medical tests.

The first thing to mention is that if you are HIV positive or have AIDS, or if you have TB or hepatitis you will not be granted residency status in Dubai.  If you’re concerned that you could have one of the conditions mentioned but you’re not sure, it would be better to be tested in your own home country before going to Dubai and facing tests, diagnosis, detention and deportation.

Assuming you’re fit and healthy and you’ve already sorted out your entry visa into Dubai and now have either an employment or a residency visa in place, the next step on the road to becoming a legitimate resident of the emirate is to get your health card.  Note: you can change your entry visa for a residency or work one once you become eligible by either leaving and re-entering Dubai, or by paying 500 dirham to the Immigration Department.

Your employer may help you sort out the paperwork for your health card, but if not then you’re advised to go to any state run hospital or the Ministry of Health and pick up an application form.  Our advice is to actually go and get the form sorted out in one day – so head to Rashid Hospital, which is near the British Council in Downtown Bur Dubai, and pick up your form.  It will need to be completed in Arabic, but you’ll find offices all over town to do the translation and typing for you.  Return to the health card office at Rashid Hospital with your passport and several copies of it, a copy of your visa and a couple of passport photos and about 310 – 350 dirham in cash to pay for the card.  You’ll receive in return your health card, a blank form for the medical test and a receipt – don’t leave without any of these items!

Once you have these you can go and get the medical test done.  You can ask at Rashid Hospital where you should go for this, or maybe your employer will be able to find out for you.  Most people are redirected to either Maktoum Hospital or the Kuwaiti Hospital, which is officially referred to as Al Baraha Hospital.  You will need to turn up with your health card, receipt for the payment of it, two more passport pictures and the medical test form completed and typed up in Arabic.  If you go very early in the morning or midweek you’ll find that the hospitals are at their quietest and you may only have a short wait.  Go at any other time and you will probably have to wait for hours.

You will have to give blood that will be tested for the likes of HIV and hepatitis, and then you will have to have a chest x-ray for TB.  Women are advised to wear a t-shirt over their bra and beneath whatever else they are wearing, then they will be allowed to keep the t-shirt on, having removed all other top layers and their bra.  Otherwise you will have to don a hospital gown, and sometimes there is nowhere private to change.

Your blood sample will enter a batch, and if any in that batch prove positive for HIV or hepatitis for example, everyone in the batch will be called back for a re-test.  So, if you are called back do not panic, it does not necessarily mean there was anything wrong with your sample.  But please be advised, if you are found to be ill, you will be immediately detained and deported home.

Once you have undergone all your medical tests you will be given a receipt that will tell you when to return to get your test results.  Whilst your medical card is renewable annually, you only have to undergo these tests when your residency permit comes up for renewal.  Note that the test currently costs from 210 dirham.