Expats living and working in Dubai need private health insurance before the emirate’s government will issue a visa.
Strict new rules came into effect from January 1 and the government will not hand over a visa to anyone who does cannot show they have valid private health cover.
Insurance companies have huge back logs of applications for cover to process and cannot keep up with demand, says the government.
The government is extending the cut-off date for when expats must have covered, but has not released any information about when this may end.
During the cut-off period, expats will not be fined for breaching the private medical cover rules.
Insurance companies say the volume of inquiries has dropped off since the cut-off was announced.
Visa deadline extended again
The Dubai Health Authority claims 98% of the emirate’s population now has private medical insurance – which adds up to around 4 million people.
Dubai Health Authority director of health funding Dr Haidar Al Yousuf said that although the deadline for residents to apply for the mandatory health insurance has been extended, the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department has already linked issuing visas to proof of medical insurance and the system has been activated.
“This was done from January 1 and except for delays in submission from some insurance companies, new visas will now not be issued or renewed for residents unless they have the insurance,” he said.
“However, no fines will be levied for this extension period. The new deadline will be announced soon. This does not mean delay buying medical insurance, everyone should do so as soon as possible.”
The government required every Dubai resident, including expats, to arrange private health cover by Summer 2016, but extended the deadline to December 31.
France threatens expats with health bills
The penalty is £110 a month per person who does not have insurance in a household.
The measure was introduced to improve health care in Dubai by attracting foreign investment into the service and reducing the cost burden on the public purse.
Meanwhile, French right wingers the National Front say expats must pay for health care for the first two years they live in the country if the party wins the upcoming presidential elections.
Under current rules, expats pay upfront for some medical services which are reimbursed by the government or private insurance.
“Someone who arrives legally should wait some time before benefiting from the reimbursement of health costs,” said party leader Marine Le Pen. “No one pays health costs for French expats in the US or Australia.”