I want to share my recent experience with you which I'm hoping will help other UK expats living in Dubai, UAE.
I met my man a couple of years ago and last year in June (2011), I conceived. As soon as we found out I was pregnant, we started processing the necessary documentation in order for us to get married.
I'm a UK passport holder (Indian by origin) but my now-husband is an Indian national. The only option we had was to get married at the Indian Consulate in Bur Dubai as the British Embassy here doesn't do marriages.
It took us a total of 5 months to get our official marriage certificate (we got it in October 2011) and by this time, I was already nearly 5 months pregnant. I was having regular check ups with Dr. Rajalaxmi in American Hospital and they didn't seem to care that I wasn't married. The Dr. did say that I would need a marriage certificate at the time of the baby's birth in order to get the birth certificate, which I blindly believed.
In February 2012, my baby boy was born and upon showing our marriage certificate to the hospital, they issued the birth notification. Ths doc is then taken to Baraha Hospital to get the birth certificate.
My husband went to Al Baraha Hospital to obtain the baby's birth certificate but he was instead given a letter typed in Arabic and told to go to Dubai Court and 'change the date of marriage'. We were baffled by what the lady behind the Baraha counter meant but what she wanted was for us to go to the court and request them to approve our marriage so that we can get the birth certificate.
American Hospital has a Public Relations Officer by the name of Ghanim and my father decided to seek his advice on what should be done. Ghanim told him that these kind of cases are very common in the UAE and that all we have to do is tell the court that we got married in India a few years before the actual marriage in Dubai and that we didn't get any document for the first marriage, so we're not able to prove it. He said that the court would respect the fact that we belong to a different religion (if we were Muslims, we would have been given a much harder time) and that our traditions for marriage and such are different to their's.
We felt confident after meeting with Ghanim and decided to keep our 'fake' date of marriage as 31st December 2010 and that we got married in Goa, India, in a Hindu temple, therefore, we don't have any proof.
Our first court hearing was on 8th March 2012 and the court asked us where we got married and if there were any witnesses. We told them that my father and brother were witnesses and 2 friends of my husband's who live in India. They told us to come back for the final hearing on 29th April 2012.
At this point, we didn't know what would happen but we were optimistic that we'd get the birth certificate on 29th April. When we saw the judge on that day again, he told us to come for the final hearing on 29th May. That day came and my husband and I showed up at the court again but the judge decided to leave early and so we never met him for the final judgement.
We went to check the status of our case in the Personal Status office in the court and we were told that the judge rejected our case and that we had to appeal if we were not happy with the decision. Of course we weren't happy with the decision! Now, it just seemed that everything was going to go downhill from this point onwards and my family and I were getting nervous and worried that perhaps they would give us some sort of criminal punishment.
We thought that if they saw the Indian Consulate's marriage certificate, which was attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they would allow us to get the birth certificate but they didn't seem to care about that. Conceiving a child out of wedlock in the UAE is a moral sin and in their eyes, even if you know you've done the right thing by not having an abortion and having the child in as legal a manner as possible (in the UAE), all they can see is us having had sexual intercourse before being married.
We appealed the case and were told to come for a hearing on the 26th of June. This time we were standing in front of 4 judges and they asked us to submit a memo to them, a sort of declaration that my husband and I take full responsibility for the child and that he is the legitimate father of the baby. Our next court hearing was on the 12th of July and we submitted this memo. They told us to come back on the 29th of July for the final judgement. Again, we showed up at the court and were told that we need to bring two witnesses with us who can vouch for us for the Goa marriage.
By this time, we were so distressed and freaked out, that we decided to go to the British Embassy to see if they could help us since we were sure we weren't the only couple in the whole of the UAE going through this problem.
My father and I went to the embassy and met with a lady called Manar (she's the Pro-Consul there). She informed us that these kind of cases are common and that the punishment is never jail or deportation, but perhaps a fine. She said that if we had the baby without being married then that would have been a major problem but because we had the Indian Consulate certificate, our case is pretty straightforward.
She told us to meet with a Mr. Mohamed Abdul Rahman, Director of Personal Status office in Dubai Courts who would be able to help us with this case.
After leaving the UK embassy, we went straight to Dubai Courts and found Mr. Abdul Rahman's office. He was very kind to see us immediately and after showing him the court documents that we had, he said that we didn't need to take this case to the court at all.
All we had to do was for the father of the child to come to the personal status office with 2 witnesses (they can be anyone. For my husband, my father and a friend accompanied him as witnesses) and all 3 should have the Emirates ID card. My husband would then need to meet with the judge there and make a declaration that he is the father of the child and the witnesses agree to the same in front of the judge. The judge then stamps a letter typed in Arabic and gives it to us. Mr. Abdul Rahman then said that we take that paper to Baraha Hospital and submit it along with the other documentation and we would then get the birth certificate.
It was unbelievable but in just a day, the declaration was done, the judge signed and stamped the letter and we were in Al Baraha hospital submitting our docs. They told us to come back next day to collect the birth certificate and after 5 months of pure stress and worry and a baby without a legal identity, we finally had the birth certificate!
And it was all due to the fact that we went to the British embassy to ask for their advice. If only we had done this the moment we were told to go to Dubai Court the first time! But, everything happens in its own time and it was just such a relief once it was done.
So my advice to all you UK expats, if ever in trouble with the law here, first and foremost, go to the British embassy to ask for help. They will help you find a way or at least guide you in the right direction.
Now, you must be wondering what happened to our current court case where they asked us to bring 2 witnesses. We asked Mr. Abdul Rahman the same question and he said 'Forget about it'. He said that if we don't turn up to the next court hearing, the court will automatically dismiss the case as it was a case started by us, not them. And if we who filed the case cannot be bothered to come to a hearing, then the court doesn't waste its time trying to chase us for coming!
So another quick relief and we were now free! My baby finally had an identity and we were able to process his passport, visa and health insurance because we have the birth certificate.
Please, guys and girls, do get the advice of the British Embassy, because remember, you're NEVER the only ones in the UAE going through a problem!
I hope this thread helps some people out there.
P.S. I'm not sure if this way of getting a birth certificate applies to any other nationality but again, I would ask you to check with your respective consulates/embassies before approaching the Personal Status office. Also, because we were married before the baby was born, it was okay for us to get the birth certificate in this manner, so those of you who aren't married yet, please GET MARRIED FIRST before going to the Personal Status office.