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Friday, May 09, 2008

What to expect when you first arrive in Qatar

For me the first shock arrived three days before I left for Qatar, when my sponsor informed me that my wife and children would not be able to join me until I had my residence permit. Until that time I thought we were going together. In fact I very nearly didn't go.

It was actually longer than three days, as the journey to Qatar was delayed and delayed. I actually had another job lined up in case this one fell through, but in the end I had to make the choice, and then I felt very nervous indeed - not least because the savings in my bank were disappearing rapidly.

Incidentally, I have since met other people in Qatar who had to wait much longer than me. Against this, I am convinced that I made the correct choice - both my wife and I are very happy here.


When I arrived I was picked up by a Persian gentleman who spoke few words of English. I was lucky - sometimes labourers arriving here from Asia are left for hours to languish upon the airport floor until their companies/agencies can be bothered to pick them up.

The gentleman who picked me up navigated me through the large building site I had landed in (that was Doha prior to the Asian Games, by the way), and his driving was so crazy that I didn't even notice how bad everyone else's was until later.

He asked me for my passport, but I refused to give it to him. I later learnt that it is normal to relinquish it upon arrival. I did so the next day instead. My passport was later returned to me after all official business had been finished.

I was advised not to give original education certificates, which were for some reason required. Friends who gave their certificates received them back with scribbles and notes upon them. Photocopies of the certificates, as with most documents, were acceptable.

Residence Permit

Before you can do anything in Qatar - get a permanent driving licence, obtain an alcohol permit, open a bank account e.t.c. you have to obtain a residence permit. In all fairness, my employer pushed along the process of obtaining this as quickly as she could, as she knew I was desperate to get my family along.

What I didn't need at the time was police clearance. After I had arrived people were told they did need it. However, I have now known three people who have acquired the police clearance and then not needed. I wouldn't rely on this experience, though, as what is needed does sometimes seem random. I needed my education certificates, scans of my wife and children's passports - and our birth certificates.

Medical Checkups

After getting the initial paperwork done, you need to have a blood type test done. You can get this done at a clinic - I got mine done at the Doha Clinic in Al Nasser street. Note that this needs to be done before your medical test.

Then there was the blood test and medical checkup, which took place at the same time. I don't like blood tests, but this was the best test I have ever been given - I didn't feel a thing. The there was the x-ray and a cursory examination.

When taking the test men and women were separated. For the men, the staff seemed fine, if a little brusque. However, I have heard several women complain at the treatment they have received (from the female staff) at the center.


After your test has been completed, and assuming you have passed it (the vast majority of people do), you will need to go for fingerprinting. Here hope you have a good Mandoub, the person in the office responsible for getting bureaucracy done, handling stuff for you - he will then be able to use his local contacts to rapidly circumvent large queues.

And finally...

Then it is a matter of waiting, nagging a bit, waiting again and then finally getting your residence permit. Then hey-presto, you are a real person again. Albeit one who is not allowed to leave the country without first begging permission from your employer first. Doh!

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