Immigration and International Issues
Some countries restrict residence visas based on blood test results from a medical examination that may include testing for hepatitis B and other health conditions. Hepatitis B discrimination based on a positive surface antigen test (HBsAg) is unfair and unnecessary, but these policies exist in many parts of the world. This may vary by country for students wishing to study abroad and people wishing to work or apply for extended stay visas or immigrate abroad.
Things to consider when considering living abroad:
Do your homework! Check the immigration/emigration policies set by the government of the country where you wish to work, study and reside. This will entail searching the internet for country-appropriate websites and information. Employment agencies in your country of origin may also have information about the country where you wish to reside.
Consider your employment skills. As an example, some countries may permit entry but deny employment to people wishing to work in healthcare. The World Hepatitis Alliance has member organizations residing in many countries globally. We would recommend contacting a local World Hepatitis Alliance member in the country of interest to learn more about local policies. You can find the member list and contact information here.
Many people living with chronic hepatitis B contact the Hepatitis B Foundation wishing to work in the United Arab Emirates (UAE – including Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Sharique, Dubayy, Umm, Qaywayn) and other gulf coast countries.) The UAE has a strict policy in place. Visa screening rules apply to six specified categories: nannies, housemaids and nursery workers; hairdressing salon and beauty center workers; health club workers; and anyone working food processing or food-control authorities and those working in cafes and restaurants. Anyone testing HBsAg positive will be denied a work permit and will not be permitted to reside in the UAE. The UAE also re-tests for hepatitis B a year after entry to confirm that new residents are not infected. Individuals will be deported if they are found to be positive for hepatitis B.
An immigration policy may exist that appears to deny extended stay visas or work permits to people living with chronic hepatitis B, but you can challenge this with a letter and health report from your doctor. Occasionally, the information is dated, and the case can be resolved favorably.
Often there is a policy in place denying entry or work to people testing hepatitis B positive (HBsAg positive) that cannot be changed by the applicant. This policy change must come from the governing body of the country.
What to do if you are facing discrimination:
What can you do if you live in a country that discriminates against those who have hepatitis B? Get involved! Please contact World Hepatitis Alliance member organizations and see how you can help to raise the profile of hepatitis B in your country and fight for the rights of those living with hepatitis B. More voices, more action!
Below are of organizations that the Hepatitis B Foundation has relationships with that are working hard to change policy in their country. Contact them today and lend your support.