If you’re among the 500 new expats that move to Qatar each day, then you’re probably curious what living in your new home will be like and want to get to know the ropes before arriving. So here’s a general guide of what you should know before coming, what to expect, and how to get around in the ever-growing Gulf nation. This list from Globaleye will give you the key things you need to know in order to be prepared and to plan your financials so you’re not caught off guard.
Visas for your family
While you may have a visa for yourself, visas for you family are not necessarily a right. For one, you must be able to prove you’re earning more than 10,000 QR (£1,775) a month in order to act as a sponsor. In case your application to be a sponsor for your family is denied, the first thing you should do is ask your company to appeal and make your case. However, due to conservative laws, couples must be married if they are to live together and children cannot live in a household if the couple is not married. But if you do meet the requirements, family members who are sponsored can enter Qatar with a special entry visa and are required to apply for residency within a week of arrival. The full process for residency includes finger printing, blood tests for hepatitis, HIV and tuberculosis. Check with your company on their specific policy on helping you apply for family visas, as some employers will require a waiting period of up to six months.
As more and more expats flood into Qatar, so are many of their children and with them comes a demand for adequate education. But the problem is that the demand is higher than there are spots; waiting lists can take up to a year and some parents are even paying deposits to ensure a spot for their child.
Applications for schools are usually accepted over a several week period in January, and if you miss it, you’re out of luck until next year. You can look at lifeinqatar.com to find a list of schools and other helpful information.
So bottom line, plan well ahead if you don’t want you child to miss a step in their education. Also, check with your employer if they have education fees included in your employment package, as tuition fees can range from 30,000 QR (£5,285) to 51,000 QR (£8,985) a year.
Unlike other countries in the region, Qatar has a good state health care system offered to anyone who registers, and surprisingly is available to expats too. However, long waits should be expected and if it’s urgent, many people go for private care, which can get to be expensive without proper health insurance. So it’s probably a good idea to look into if your employer offers health insurance, and if they don’t, a law is expected to be introduced this year requiring companies provide health insurance for employees.
Driving can be a bit stressful as roads during rush hour are packed and tend to be chaotic. Taxis are an option, but for long term they don’t make economic sense, as the price is quite high. When you first arrive, any valid driver’s license from any country is valid for one week while driving a rental, but after that you must get an International Driver’s License (IDL). But remember, once your residency approved, your IDL will be void and you must apply for a Qatari driver’s license immediately.
Since Qatar uses the sponsorship system, meaning every expat employee is represented by their employer, it means that they decide when you are permited to leave the country. And yes, even for those untimely emergencies. Depending on the company you’re working for, you can apply for annual multi-exit permits, or do it on a case by case basis. Best advice is to demand your employer includes multi-exit permits in your contract if you’re able to, otherwise you might be out of luck if your boss is out of town when you need them to sign a permit.