The Engineer has renewed his contract. This means that we are currently going through the process of renewing visas and are constantly reminded about the process of getting said visas in the first place. And it’s quite a process. When we first went through it, we were moving and settling and all sorts, and it all felt like a bit too much to write about. But this time around we’re used to Brunei, we’re used to the bureaucracy, we’ve done it all before, and it doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming. But it’s an important part of living in Brunei as an expat, so today I thought I would write a little bit about it.
I live in Brunei as a dependent, and The Engineer works for a pretty small company with relatively few expats. Your mileage may vary when it comes to getting a visa sorted.
- Dependent pass approved
This step was fortunately done by The Engineer’s work. I don’t quite know what they do, but it involved The Engineer writing a letter to sponsor me, and sending off his contract and some other information. This meant a decent wait (over a month for us) between The Engineer arriving in Brunei and me being allowed to move. Eventually, they sent me a letter, which meant I could move to step 2.
- Single-entry visa
To move from that letter to an entry visa, I had to visit the High Commission in Singapore. This was a pain because it meant a longer wait until I got to see The Engineer, but it was kinda cool because I got a company sponsored trip to Singapore. The process at the High Commission was super easy, but I did learn that with all visa type things you should bring exact change.
- Health check
Once I was in the country, one of the first things to do was to get my health check. This sounds simple, but isn’t so much. The first time I tried, I couldn’t complete it because they were out of forms. The second time the forms were in, but a health check still involved: two visits to the first counter, a visit to the payment counter, another visit to the first counter, a blood test, a final visit to the first counter, a drive across town to the x-ray place, a wait at the reception, a change into an x-ray gown, x-ray, waiting for a check of the plates, changing again. With some of those waits being 15-20 minutes, it was a whole morning gone.
This time around, the health check was a lot easier. It still involved the same process, but all our waits were a lot shorter. We wondered if it was because we brought a baby along…
- Multiple-entry visa
Again, this step was completed by The Engineer’s work. I can’t remember it really, but I think fairly quickly we had a multi-entry visa, so that we could actually leave the country.
- Dependent pass and visa
Once again, we didn’t have to manage this part. We have visited Immigration a few times for The Engineer’s Baby’s passes, so we’re pretty glad that we avoided this step! On our initial arrival though, this was quite delayed. Not sure what the hold up was, but I do know that we had about six months before we had our long term passes were completely sorted out. We’re hoping this time around is a little bit easier!
- Identification card
The last step of the process was getting an Identification card (or IC). To get this, we had to visit Immigration pretty much as soon as it opened. Even though we thought we were really early, I think we were about 50th in line. So basically, the process for this was to wait and wait and wait. In amongst the waiting there was some form filling, some picture taking, and some fingerprint taking. It wasn’t too painful, but it was long. Then, one month later, we went to pick up our cards and we were official.
I don’t know how this compares to other countries, nor how the written process appears to an outsider. But some things to consider are: every piece of paperwork is handwritten, even the receipts, it’s not entirely clear to me that my information is in a computer system at all; a lot of the process is not signposted or laid out, and we frequently had to be helped by friendly locals to know what was going on; the information is often not in English, and at times we were basically clueless.
But, we should also consider that it eventually worked. We are here, we are together, we are official, and it seems as if the renewal will be a lot more pain free than the initial process!
And if we’re going to get Pollyanna-ish about it, I’m definitely glad that we didn’t have to do that initial process with a newborn baby. (Seriously, don’t even talk to me about getting immigration passes sorted for The Engineer’s Baby!)