Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quitting the UAE: a 12-step program, part 2

Step 5: Close locally-held financial accounts. For us, this was an HSBC credit card, checking and savings accounts. We didn't have any loans, so I can't comment on how to clear these, but the process is probably similar. To be safe, start two weeks prior to your drop-dead date. Before you begin you may want to transfer most of your checking/savings balance to your home bank so that you don't have to walk around carrying all your cash. And once again, it's best to go to the main branch and skip any middle men.

On your first visit you will pay off and cancel your credit cards. Once you've submitted the paperwork, they call you to confirm the cancellation, and if you don't answer they won't follow through. My phone call came 2 days later. Make sure any transfers are confirmed in your home bank and your credit card account is closed before going back to the branch for the second visit, to close your checking and savings accounts. At this time, apply for a letter of no liability, which says you don't owe the bank any money. They will charge a small fee (ours was 50 dirhams). Your final visit, 2-3 business days later, will be to pick up the "no liability" letter.

Step 6: Apply for cancellation of residence visa. This can be done up to 30 days prior to your flight out of the country. My company's visa officer handled the paperwork for me, but I was required to present my passport as well as the passports of anyone I sponsor (i.e. Sam). A day later, the visa officer returned them to me, residence visas inside now stamped with an expiration date 30 days out, at which point Sam and I will officially no longer be welcome here.

Step 7: Cancel your utilities. My employer handled the water and electric clearance, but I had to call the gas company myself. A man came a few days later, wrote down the meter reading, took the gas knob so that I couldn't turn the gas back on, and gave me the address of the distributor office in order to go in person to pay my final bill and obtain the clearance certificate. Oh, and he said I could go only Sunday through Wednesday, between 3:30-5:30 pm to do this. What can I do to get working hours like that?

The next day we showed up in the appropriate window of time at a dilapidated high-rise building, and entered a disheveled office suite filled with stacks of heat-warped papers, one ancient copy machine, and filthy patchworks of threadbare carpet covering the floor. We heard children playing in the next room. We gave our final meter reading to the man behind the desk and asked him how much we owed, skeptical that he could find the answer in such a mess. He told us to have a seat, and immediately began crunching numbers on his calculator. Ten minutes later, he arrived at a figure of 59 dirhams, which sounded good to us. We paid it in cash, and he handed us a clearance letter. Just like that - no return visits required? So simple! I left gratefully, the old adage never to judge a book by its cover ringing in my ears. 

Step 8: Get a housing clearance letter from your landlord, stating you don't owe for rent or damages. This will require some sort of walk-through of the apartment. In our case, a couple of men showed up unannounced and without any explanation, walked around our living room, checked the A/C vents and behind our curtains, asked our move-out date, and left. I was worried this couldn't possibly be enough information to go on; they didn't even look at the other rooms, but a couple of days later a letter was faxed to my employer. 

Step 9: Get rid of the evidence. For me, this meant deleting all my files and turning over my work-issued laptop, cell phone, employee ID, health insurance cards, and a library book. I never invested in my own laptop or phone while here, so this step was the equivalent of hitting rock bottom. I now had nothing left to tie me to my life here in Abu Dhabi, and was totally cut off from the outside world (well, until I borrowed my neighbor's computer to check email the next morning and again now to type this post). But still.

Step 10: Get paid. After steps 1-9 are complete, you should have all the signatures and letters you need to get your final paycheck and gratuity. I went yesterday afternoon to see my HR rep, who handed me a big fat check, shook my hand, and sent me on my way. What a feeling!

Of course, it was in dirhams, and I now had no UAE bank account, so I had to go this morning to my employer's bank to cash the check, then walk across the street to the Exchange with more money in my purse than I had ever carried at one time (it seemed a very long walk), in order to wire it to our bank in the U.S. All I can do is pray it makes it there (I won't find out for 3-4 days), as it is our livelihood for the next several months, or until I find a job, whichever comes first.

Step 11: Say your last goodbyes and finish your bucket list. We've had remarkable experiences the past two years and have no regrets, so for us, this only included finally going to the top of the Burj Khalifa.

Step 12: Pack your bags and board your flight. We'll let you know how this goes. For now, we're signing off for a while. Goodbye Abu Dhabi, and good luck!


  1. Good luck on your next venture...and adventure. Will miss reading about your experiences in this part of the world.

  2. What a process! Now that you're "home" in Tallahassee, everything will seem a breeze by comparison. Mom

  3. Thanks a lot, guys!. I think we'll follow these steps in brief, after spending two years in UAE, too!


  4. Really wonderful and very useful information. Thank u for sharing information like this. Best Movers in Abu Dhabi