The visa runs

An iqama is a permanent residency visa for foreigners in Saudi Arabia. None of the teachers in this McGill program have iqamas. We’re all on multiple-entry, business visas.

The upside is that these last six months and allow us to leave the country whenever we want, which is great. (Iqama holders have to set up specific requests to leave the country when they want to leave.)

The downside to the business visas is that we have to leave the country periodically. Some get 90 days. Some get 60. Most of us only got 30.

That means, for most of us, every 30 days, we have to leave the country. That’s once every four weeks, and since we’re working during the week, that’s one weekend morning out of every eight.

I’m sure you can anticipate the complaints.

For my first one the other day, we got on the bus at 7:00am and got back just minutes after 1:00pm. That was the fastest it could possibly go since no one checked any of our bags and we didn’t wait in any lines. It could have taken hours longer.

Maybe next time will take longer. Maybe it will be quick like last time, from 7:00am to 1:00pm. I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that since I got the 30-day stamp on my visa, I’m going to be doing it, one way or another, once every four weeks.

Get up, get on the bus, ride to the border, get out, get stamped, get on the bus, cross some check points, get out, pay some money, get stamped, get on the bus, cross the border, U-turn, get out, get stamped, get on the bus, cross some check points, get out, wait for the bus to be searched, get on the bus, cross some more check points, drive back to the compound, and get off the bus.

It’s quite an ordeal. I knew it was coming. Thankfully, I knew what the business visa meant before I signed up. But still, it’s quite an ordeal, quite a welcome to work in the Middle East.