The musings of a wanderer......

Igama Drama……

So I’m sure you’ve been asking yourself “I wonder whatever happened with Kristine’s Saudi paperwork nightmare?” Well, let me assure you, it’s been nothing short of exciting. The other day I went to the passport office to inquire as to whether my Igama was ready. In the event that you’re confused or just reading my blog for the first time an Igama is a residency card. You need this card to open a bank account and get an exit/re-entry visa to allow you to leave the country. Seeing as my 90 days of being in the Kingdom have passed and I’m still bank accountless I’m very keen to do both these things. So I’m at the passport office and they tell me that yes, my Igama is processed and the lovely lady goes into the back to get it, and while she’s gone I’m basically high-fiving myself over my amazing luck that this bloody ordeal is now over. In hindsight the mental high-fiving was maybe not such a good idea. Because the lady comes back, and she’s got a card in her hand. And its an Igama. My Igama. And she’s completing the paperwork, and then she says these dreaded words…..”your name wrong on card.” And I’m like, lady don’t joke with me. I can read my name and its spelt right. And she says “Arabic name is wrong.” And I can’t confirm or deny this because, the only Arabic I read are numbers, and last time I checked my last name didn’t have any numbers in it. So I calmly ask her how big of a problem this is, and what can we do about it. And she says “bank will not accept” and that it would take another 7 business days to get the name changed. And because I didn’t know what else to do my eyes welled up, and I tried not to cry out of sheer frustration. And then I asked to speak to the man who originally helped organize my papers. So I was led into a back office where I was handed a magnifying glass (no joke) and was shown where the mistakes were made (even though I still can’t read Arabic). I was then instructed that the mistake was likely not that big of a deal and when I said “but I need to open a bank account” the reply was “just don’t tell them the name is wrong, maybe they won’t notice.” Solid advice.

So I crawled back to the office of a lovely secretary who works for my department and told her my sob story. She made a phone call to someone in charge and walked me back over to the passport department. All the while holding my hand. Hand holding is very common here, not man-woman, but woman-woman, and man-man. Even though it’s common it still feels a little odd, but I knew she was trying to make me feel better about the situation. So we went to a guys office. It was fancy. I told him my sad story. He made a phone call. After he hung up he said the correction would take 24 hours. That was last week. I’m still waiting. Fingers crossed tomorrow. It’s all so frustrating, as per my contract I can’t leave the country for 90 days. Well that 90 days are over and I should be able to leave but I’m trapped until it all gets straightened out. I have vacation coming up the beginning of February as my kiwi sidekick and I are going to Cyprus……if I can get this paperwork all sorted in time. So the saga continues………

Saudi Arabia……one continuous lesson in patience.


  1. Atif

    “Saudi Arabia……one continuous lesson in patience”


  2. Denise

    My drama was the exit/re-entry visa that should have been ready before the week-end (Thursday/Friday) as I was flying out on vacation on Saturday. Needless to say, the papers were not ready, even though they had 3 weeks to prepare this. I threw a fit and refused to leave the office on a Wednesday evening and told them I would not leave without the papers. I got the visa on Thursday a.m.

    • kristinewanders

      Denise, I have also found that throwing a fit and/or crying will often get things expedited. It’s so demeaning (and annoying) to have to resort to this just to get someone to do their job. I dread every time I have to apply for a new visa!!

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