How changes in the law on TB affect expats
Health official clarifies rule changes on tuberculosis and what it means for sufferers and families in UAE
New regulations issued earlier this year regarding visa rules and deportation orders for tuberculosis ( TB) sufferers in the UAE left many residents confused.
In March 2016, the UAE Cabinet issued a decree clarifying rules on TB, which stated that expatriates with the disease will not be automatically deported, allowing residents to sponsor spouses or children with old TB scars.
The issue sparked a flurry of letters and comments from 7DAYS readers on the topic.
One letter writer asked: “I am working as an engineer in Abu Dhabi since seven years, and after getting married I brought my wife to Abu Dhabi but she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and they put a life ban on her. Since then I have not applied for her visa.
“A recent update in the UAE law has made me curious, whether I can apply for my wife’s visa again and her life ban can be lifted or not.
“I can prove that she has no symptoms of TB or any threat to the society. What are the chances and what is the procedure?”
We spoke with Nabeel Al Marhoumi, a public health consultant at the preventive medicine department at the Ministry of Health, to get a better idea of how the UAE is dealing with TB.
What is tuberculosis, how is it treated?
“Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often effects lungs. TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.
“TB is treated through a standard six-month course of four antimicrobial drugs, under supervision and support by the primary
How did the UAE law change regarding tuberculosis and visas?
“Expatriates will no longer be deported if found to be suffering from active TB. The person will be reported to primary healthcare centres and must follow the prescribed treatment. TB patients will be hospitalised until sputum smear results are negative.”
What if a person doesn’t follow the course?
“TB patients who don’t follow the treatment course could be declared medically unfit and be forced to leave the country. “Residents with active TB will be issued a one-year visa with a medical certificate that mentions visa renewal subject to treatment.”
Why has the law changed?
“In the past, expatriates who recognised they had symptoms of TB, such as fever, coughing up blood, night sweats, and unintentional weight loss, would choose to not to visit a doctor. As they feared deportation and would instead wait until their visas expired to leave the country.
“In such cases, other UAE residents and nationals are at a higher risk of developing TB. The new law on TB allows expatriates, who are diagnosed with TB after entering the country, to be treated and not fear going to medical clinics and centres.”
If a person’s wife was diagnosed with TB and authorities put a life ban on her records, could a UAE resident apply for her visa and remove the
“Yes, it’s possible. Wives, leading investors and expatriate students enrolled with UAE universities belong to exempt categories and will be allowed to apply for new visas even if they have scars from cured TB.”
What are the channels for submitting the application to remove the life ban?
“The person’s husband or relative should contact the UAE immigration department and file certain documents to see if she would be allowed to the country. Then, the life ban might be removed and when she lands in the country she has to visit the assigned medical centre to follow the treatment course.”
How did the policy change for people with active or old TB who apply for a UAE visa?
“The policy is unchanged for people with active or old tuberculosis who are applying for a UAE visa for the first time, except for specific cases such as wives and leading investors.”
Does the same policy apply to HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C virus sufferers?
“No, it doesn’t. The UAE has a policy of deporting HIV-positive expatriates.
“The disease is extremely dangerous and contagious and the number of HIV sufferers in the country is extremely low due to the current law regarding this disease. However, expatriates with hepatitis C virus might get a residency visa depending on their occupation.”