Despite the war, the instability and the very real dangers, Libya jobs continue to attract expats from all over the world. Very little can be found on the internet to help those expats prepare a move to Libya. My expat life in Libya may be over but I lived there and i can tell you what google can’t: getting a Health Certificate is both extremely important and terribly difficult. You ready?
Essential information for expats to Libya is missing. That is a fact. Before moving to Libya in 2012, i had no idea that i would need a health certificate to be allowed to work in that country. No one ever told me, i never read about it online, specialised Libya jobs websites had nothing to say on the subject. Yet i found out later (almost too late) that without medical clearance your employment contract becomes automatically void, your visas will be cancelled and you will be asked to leave Libya as the earliest possible time. That’s how important it is.
But how do you get that health certificate? Where do you need to go? How much does it cost? I’ll try my best to answer all those questions but as usual with the administration in Libya nothing is easy or straight forward and information, even on the ground, is hard to find. As for actually getting a health certificate, it’s gonna take some work.
Important Things to Remember:
- only certificates issued in Libya by Libyan authorities are accepted by employers. They may ask you to go and pay for a medical check in your country of origin but they will disregard it and ask you to do it again soon after you arrive in Libya.
- Certificates usually expire after 1 year
- Prices vary from one city to another but 65 LYD per person per certificate is a good average
Libya Jobs: Getting a Health CERTIFICATE
So you got a job offer in Libya which you have accepted, you’ve packed up your life in a few suitcases and you’ve finally arrived. This is when you learn (probably for the first time) that you need a health certificate. Well, brace yourself, it’s not gonna be easy, it’s gonna drive you mad but it can be done and you may even be able to laugh about it afterwards. Here is the day by day, place by place, step by step procedure you are likely to have to follow to get that precious document.
Day 1 – Step 1:
We go to the University Hospital in Zawia, walk back and forth for some time until we find the right office and as soon as we find it, the person in charge tells us that they can’t issue receipt. In any other country, that wouldn’t be a problem but in Libya that’s the end of the world. Therefore we are asked to move straight to step 2 and for that we need to go elsewhere. No no, not another office in the hospital, elsewhere as in take you car and drive.
Day 1 – Step 2:
We were asked to go to the Ministry of Health in Zawia, which happens to be quite on the other side of the city and so far from the hospital that we almost arrived too late. At the Ministry of Health we paid for our medical and lab analysis and got a receipt. We are now 120 LYD lighter but that’s it, there is no more we can do here. We are directed to go back to the University Hospital in the city.
Day 1 – Step 3:
Back to square 1 in University Hospital we struggle once again to find the right wing of the hospital. There you hand in your passport and in exchange they open a file for you and start the admin process of getting you the right paperwork to get your medical exams done. After that we finally get to the medical part of this whole operation and they take some blood sample. They will keep your passport and issue you with a receipt to get it back once you get the final certificate. I guess this is where things would go badly if you couldn’t get the certificate validated. If your results are positive and you are shown to have HIV, TB or Hep then you will get your passport back but only so that you can exit the country!
In order to do a series of chest X-rays we went to a different hospital in Zawia. We arrived at 9am only to be told they were done for the day, please come back tomorrow! This is where we learnt that some days are for Libyans only, others for expats. Which days exactly? who knows? No one ever tells you which day to come or at what time. Best thing is to hope you come on the right day and time next time. Ohhh and we’ll need to fork out another 20LYD per person for the X-ray. Didn’t we have to travel all around the city to the Ministry of Health to settle all payments??? Apparently not!
Day 3 – Step 1:
We went back to the second hospital where we had been the day before arriving at 8am this time. We gave 2 ID pictures and 20LYD each to get yet another file opened in our name. There is no such thing as a centralised bank of information in Libya, so everywhere you go, you need to provide the same documents again and again. We once had to hand out 3 passport copies and sets of pictures in the same place just because it was for different people, whose desk were actually on the same floor and within sight of each other. Anyway after we handed out money and pictures we ….. waited…. for a loooooong time! Finally our turn to do the X-ray came at about 10am. Let’s move to the next step.
Day 3 – Step 2:
Oooops can’t do step 2. A signature is needed on our X-ray card and the only person who can sign won’t be in until 12pm. That’s another thing you’ll learn fast, Libyans love signatures and stamps. Just check out our health certificates once they were done with it!
Instead, we went back to the 1st hospital (the University Hospital in Zawia) to collect our file, the one from Day 1 – Step 3 remember? It’s now ready for us and it already has 6 different stamps on it. We need that file for the next day in order to get our last 3 medical checks done, namely general well-being check, eye check and skin check. Don’t ask!
Day 4 – Step 1:
At this point, if you’re reading this you may wonder how all this can be done during a normal working week because of course you can’t do all that during the weekend. Answer is simple, you’ll need to take time off work, cancel and reschedule lessons and catch up on other work related business later.
Anyway on Day 4, we went first to the same hospital as day 3 (not the University one, the other one, you keeping up?) to collect our X-Ray card with that signature and the results of the X-ray on it. Not sure which one is actually more important in Libya but i wouldn’t be so sure it’s the results.
Day 4 – Step 2:
We then had to drive to yet another hospital, 3rd one we visited in this whole process so far, to have the 3 check ups done. This is where it gets funny. Despite being tired and frustrated by the whole thing, when we left the hospital my husband and i bursted in laughter and couldn’t stop for a long time. Here’s why. Remember it’s Day 4, it’s location 4 or 5 or 6… so you’d be expecting something serious and important to happen. Well not in Libya! For the general well-being and skin check “exams” the doctor didn’t even look at us, she just signed the forms. The doctor was actually already in consultation, we were ushered in the room, and we stood there while she signed, her eyes on her patient the whole time.
As for the eye check, this is how it happened. We were both asked to step in the exam room at the same time. My husband went first, he was asked to sit on a stool and to read 1 (ONE) letter from the first line, the extra large font line. Please cover your other eye, Sir. Read that letter please. Can you guess which letter that is? Yep the same one, on the same extra large font line. Thank you. Sir. Could you ask your wife to sit? I sit down, cover my right eye and wait. Please read that letter. And yes, i’m sure you guessed this time, i was asked the read the SAME letter my husband had already read twice while i waited next to him. Cover your other eye and read that letter please, said the lady. Are you laughing already? Yes of course, SAME LETTER AGAIN!!! After this very thorough eye exam, we were both awarded 10 out of 10 for both eyes. Thank you very much. Where it get even funnier is that both my husband and i wear glasses without which we can’t see much. Now you see why we couldn’t stop laughing afterwards?
Anyway can’t stay here all day laughing our heads off in the car, we got some more things to do.
Day 4 – Step 3:
We drove quickly (it was getting late and close to the end of office hours) to the other side of town to yet another branch of the Ministry of Health (nope, not the same as before, that would be too simple) to collect our passports. Unfortunately we arrived too late, the only guy who could give us our passports back had already left… without telling anyone apparently if his colleague’s surprise was any indication.
Well yes, we waited! It was the weekend, so nothing happened for another 2 days!
After the weekend we went back to the Ministry of Health after work to collect our passports. We arrived in time, went upstairs to the office but at first they told us “come back at 8am“. We explained that we were teaching and that it would be very hard. “Come back in 3 days then” was the answer. Why? Who knows? The guy was there, our passports were ready, it was office hours, we were there but no: come back in 3 days! Ahhh Libya, if you didn’t exist, we would have to invent you. Anyway we insist, they agree to see us. Oh oh turns out we need 4 ID pictures and 10 LYD each!
Luckily we have learnt our lessons and we always carried about 20 ID pictures with us at all times, 20 LYD were not hard to find either so we were back in business. A few more forms, a few more signatures, a few more improbable questions to answer and we were done. They gave us our passports back and they had even made us some laminated Immigrant ID Card, which had our medical results at the back of it.
For the anecdote when i checked my new ID card i was surprised to see that my passport number was written incorrectly, which most likely would make the whole thing invalid if there ever was a problem. But the whole experience had drained us of all our energy and patience so we let it pass. And anyway, remember what i said at the beginning? This whole circus has to be done once a year. Cheers!
One last word
Libya being Libya, this kind of hell rides are only too common at work, at the bank, at the doctor and everywhere else where you need paperwork. Still, i must admit that i miss Libya in many ways. It may sound crazy but Libya is a really nice place to live.
As for that awful system well believe it or not but there are many occasions where the chaos plays in your favour and you can get away with a lot in Libya. I’m not talking anything illegal, just little things that can make your life simple sometimes. Libya i DO miss you.