Monday, March 7, 2011

Saudi marriage permission success!

In Saudi-Arabia marriages to foreigners are regulated by the government. All Saudis must apply for permission to marry a foreigner or if he/she has already done so abroad the marriage must be first approved by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) to be valid under Saudi laws. Now this might sound simple, but it's everything but!
The MOI people have a reputation of being corrupt and slower than snails in terms of progress of the application. Permissions are given out for those with wasta, money to bribe employees or what it seems just randomly. They have a website with the list of terms that need to be met in order for the permission to be approved, but even meeting all the conditions will not guarantee approval if someone just happens to have a bad day at the ministry, you're out of luck!
A fellow blogger Tara Umm Omar has created a site that deals exclusively with issues around the Saudi marriage approval process: Future Husbands and Wives of Saudis.

I know people have been rejected for no apparent reasons, made to wait for years, applications have been "lost", couples with existing children have been rejected permission although citizenship was granted for children, among other irrational things. In short the MOI job seems to be to PREVENT Saudis form marrying non-Saudis by every kind of discouragement imaginable.

Despite the odds we managed to get our application approved without bribery or wasta, so I guess we fall into the random lucky ones! In the end the actual time of processing our papers could be described as quick in Saudi terms. It took only a few months!

Although our situation does differ from most western-saudi couples applying since I'm a resident of KSA due to my work and we were not applying as a couple that had previously gotten married abroad like most mixed couples do. We decided not to inform them we had already married in Finland. It seemed that telling them would make the process more lengthy and difficult.

We had to get some paperwork from Finland sent over and since my father is not muslim he appointed someone to act in his behalf here. We had some difficulties in aqcuiring the medical reports but luckily we were able to have it all done for free at the hospital I work in. Because of my pregnancy I got false results for the blood screening (positive for Saudis hereditary diseases!) but we managed to work around it with the help of a physician I worked with. He also wrote a chest x-ray report for me although I could not have it done because of the preganancy. The process would have stopped there without his help, so I guess this was the part where we used "wasta".

At one point I had to go to a government office females section (read more about that here) and managed to hide my then 7 months pregnant belly from the employees in my overthehead abaya. When our papers finally reached the MOI my husband started calling them and eventually just went there himself everyday to follow up on the progress. We were running out of time because my iqama was to expire in the beginning of March and the hospital sponsorship had to be transfered to his name before that, or I would have to leave the country and we would have had to start the whole process over again.

Initially some of the employees at MOI had said our papers look ok to go, "mafi mushkila". My husband was hopeful but I was very sceptical having read and heard so many unsuccesful stories. Attached with our papers we submitted a history of my husbands medical condition, hoping it would make things easier. As horrible as it sounds, the Saudi man having some sort of "defect" would be seen as not good enough for a Saudi woman and thus more acceptable for him to marry from abroad. But we decided to make use of this disgusting "rule".

Then one day as my husband went to the MOI he was told the application has been rejected. No grounds were given other than "you should have an existing non-productive Saudi wife". We were devasted. It meant I had to leave the country, give birth in Finland and stay for an unknown period of time away from my husband since I could not enter the country again with the baby. We started processing my exit papers from the hospital and bought my tickets to Finland, everything was set for me to leave. But then, a miracle happened!

My husband had wanted to know what was the real reason for them turning us down and had someone he knew ask about our papers. After a few days we were informed we had in fact obtained the permission and were good to go in front of the judge to get married! I didn't believe it at first, I thought it was just a misunderstanding! But it was true and now we had to cancel all the paperwork from the hospital. For once they had actually been efficient and had already cancelled my iqama and issued an exit only visa.

After we had those reversed we were ready to face the judge at the courthouse. But we had a huge problem, literally! My enormous nine month pregnancy bump! But I managed to hide it underneath layers of clothing, a bellycorset topped by the abaya. Not very comfortable for five hours! We had problems with the judges refusing to accept the additional conditions in the marriage contract. They tried to convince me over and over again to remove them which I promptly refused.
That in itself is a long story and I will post about it later!
But in the end the judge did not notice I was pregnant (he was too busy fussing with my "unheard of conditions") and agreed to marry us and we are now happily married by Saudi law, alhamdulillah!

We were the first Saudi-Finnish couple!


38 comments:

Stephi said...

What fantastic news! Seems we all have interesting marriage stories when it comes to marriage in the middle east.

God willing, you both will breath a little easier and your new baby will be at peace when he/she comes into the world. Healthy and lovely, I pray.

Daisy said...

Mabrook!!!! So happy for you...InshaAllah, may your family be filled with happiness and love....AMEN!

wandarful said...

Congratulations!! :D I guess the Fins don't like the hot Saudi weather :)

UMM LATIFA (in Saudi Kingdom) said...

Not noticing a belly of a pregnant woman! U are a master of disguise then! Congrats once again ;).

Heli said...

Congratulations!! What a difficult process it was! But hiding your pregnancy at ninth month, that was an achievement, too :D

Mrs Aquarius said...

Onneksi olkoon, mabrouk!!! I must say hiding your belly at nine months is quite an achievement, even in an abaya!

Soile said...

Congratulations again :-)

♥Amal said...

Mabrook! :)

Laylah said...

Thank you everyone!!
I will post a pic of me in that abaya in my next post :)

Sarita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarita said...

I have been following your posts for so long and I usually tell my sis about them every now and then. I am so happy for you and so does my sis!! don't leave for so long when you give birth to the Saudi-Finnish princess !! Enjoy your day and your baby-shower first gift from the MOI heheheh. Happy anniversary and Happy marriage inshalla.

Anonymous said...

Tervehdys Pohjois-Suomesta. I've been following your both blogs for a while. Interesting posts and pics! Arabic world and womens' lives in different cultures are captivating subjects, thanks for opening the veil a bit about the both! Congrats and vointeja 8 ), Johanna.

Alice said...

Congratulations!!!

Anonymous said...

Mabrook sister from Saudi guy!

Aafke-Art said...

Such an exciting story!
I am happy it all turned out well for you.
Now, what are those shocking conditions you put up in the marriage contract?

Laylah said...

Aafke-Thanks and I will write a post about it soon and you can have a good laugh :D

Blue Pearl said...

MAbrook I am so happy for you - Alhumdulillah!

Qusay said...

Congrats :)

Laylah said...

Thank you Sarita (and your sister too)!
Inshallah I won't be gone for too long but you never know!She could come any day now :)

Laylah said...

Thanks Johanna and Saudi guy and welcome to my blog!
Alice, Blue Pearl and Qusay thank you guys too :)

Tara Umm Omar... said...

Asalamu Alaikum...hey I missed this post somehow, sorry! How I discovered it? I came to your blog looking for your email address to tell you to contact me about promoting your photo blog on FHWS. Thank you for mentioning FHWS and once again, congrats on your Saudi marriage permission approval. Can I please have your permission to repost this on FHWS?

Om Lujain© said...

Congratulations!!! I am soooo happy for you! This is truly wonderful news.. and in the nick of time! I pray you and your hubby a long, happy, healthy and successful life to come! And You are awesome.. Hiding a 9 month pregnancy! I can barely hide my 7 month bump! lol.. you are nearly there.. alf mabroook!!!

Anonymous said...

Congrats...pls can u remove the blue col Coz it makes it very difficult to read..thanks

Anonymous said...

Assalamu Alaykum dear Sister. Many congratulations on your marriage permission!:) Looking forward to your next post on the marriage conditions please. I am planning to marry a Saudi soon insha'Allah and would very much appreciate any advice on what to put into the contract.... JezakAllahKhair

Laylah said...

thanks Tara and Umm Lujain!
Yes the bump is definitely BIG right now, I am a ticking time bomb :))

Angel said...

May ask u how ol was your husband when you applied. Me and my fiance are not married yet. I am australian and he is saudi. he is 26 and i am 21 we met while he was studying, went he went to get information about applying they told him he was too young. we cannot wait 9 more years for our marriage to occur. tara has given me some good advice but if there is any advice u could give me that may help i would be extremely greatful. JazakiAllah khair

Laylah said...

Hi there Angel!To answer your question my husband was 29 when we applied and I'm a few years older than him.
I wish you good luck on your marriage permission process!Just apply and don't give up if they reject you, then try again. You have to show them you are 100% serious and you won't take no for an answer!

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Mabruk and may Allah grant you many years of bliss together, ameen.

Laylah said...

Omani Princess-Thank you so much :)

Lost Girl said...

You're a lucky lady Layla...Because you found an arab guy who can stand for you despite of all these hindrances. Lots of Un-Arab ladies having a relationship with arab guys just end-up with a broken heart. Im happy for you. Mashallah. May Allah bless your marriage.

Nina Radanovic said...

Congratulations dear ... i send u mail i hope u can answer me ty

Majid Kaisrani said...

Was your husband 35 years of age when he applied?

Laylah said...

Hi Majid no he wasn't and they told him the age limit is 30.

mariaxtina said...

hi! just one question.. did you convert to islam? just curious!:)

Laylah said...

Hi there, yes I am!

sanj hanna said...

Mabrook!!!! i just wanna know how old was your husband when you got married ????

sanj hanna said...

and.... was he working that time in government of saudi or he was studying abroad???? it was really mentioned that men should be 0f 35 years old and im surprised that he was 29y.o. when you got your permission accepted.. i do hope you shed hope to couples who loves each other but is loosing hope to win the battle. goodluck...! continue to keep inspiring couples..

Anonymous said...

Subhanataallah ... It's really great to read success stories like these. The truth is I don't want to give up. Me and my Saudi partner are loosing hope regarding the permission of getting married. Inshallah we will be given a chance like you. I hope you can email me to tell us what your husband had done and if he knew someone that could help us as well. Please do email me if you have time. It's been 5 years already and until now we are still trying hard. Here's my email add lonelychick84@ gmail.com thank you and Jazakkallah.