October 12, 2011

The United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Health (MOH) recently announced an October 1, 2011 implementation of a double check medical screening for select foreign nationals applying for work/residence permits. The screenings will occur in the applicant’s home country and in the UAE to reduce the incidence of infectious disease and to confirm the authenticity of medical certificates. 

Preliminary and Post-Arrival Medical Screenings

The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) Expatriate Worker Medical Examination Program* was implemented in 1995 to track communicable disease rates in the Gulf region.  The program requires standardized medical certification using GCC Approved Medical Centres’ Association (GAMCA) sites in an applicant’s home country to perform medicals and issue qualified medical certificates prior to arrival in the participating Gulf host country.

To facilitate the GAMCA program, over 220 health centers in 10 African and South-East Asian countries are connected with local Gulf embassies via a secure computer system (Watch Verification List System). The 10 countries identified as disease endemic are as follows: Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Sudan.  These countries were identified as having unusually high incidence of infectious diseases and minimal medical treatment options.

Upon arrival in the UAE, nationals from these countries will also be required to undergo a repeat screening with an Emirati health clinic approved by the MOH.

What’s Changed?

Prior to this announcement, the UAE generally conducted medical screenings post-arrival.  Beginning this month, the first phase of implementation will affect nationals of Sri Lanka and Indonesia.  Applicants are required to visit approved GAMCA sites in their home country and be tested for tuberculosis, hepatitis B, HIV, leprosy, malaria and syphilis.  Only in instances where a valid medical certificate is issued with a negative test result will an applicant be permitted to apply for an employment entry visa and enter the UAE.  The requirement to complete a post-arrival medical check-up in UAE also remains in place.

If this program proves effective, pre-arrival medical testing will also be introduced for employment visa applicants applying in Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sudan.

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

It is recommended that regardless of nationality, travelers to GCC countries have current vaccinations recommended by the World Health Organization.  Applicants from disease endemic countries should review with their immigration service provider the required vaccinations and tests required by the local GAMCA testing center.

Companies and assignees are advised that a positive test result will more than likely result in refusal of a visa to the UAE.  In addition, should applicants have had instances where scar tissue remains from former infections (e.g., tuberculosis), x-ray examinations may indicate a false positive result that could prove difficult to overcome.

Companies and applicants should also be mindful that GAMCA testing centers in the applicant’s home country may charge high fees that are not regulated.  Therefore, it is best for applicants to first confirm the approximate fees in advance of appearing for an appointment.

*The GCC is comprised of the following countries:  Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE

This news alert was provided in coordination with our Emirati KGNM– Move One Relocation.

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This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or final guidance for any immigration matter. Readers are reminded that a country’s immigration laws and requirements may change with little to no advance public notice. Questions regarding specific immigration matters should be addressed to your Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist.