Guidance

Living in Qatar

Advice for British people living in Qatar, including information on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more.

Introduction

This guide sets out essential information for British nationals residing in the Qatar, including advice on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more. We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below. See Our Services section for more information on the services we can provide for British nationals.

Health

Before coming to Qatar, visit the Health section of our Travel Advice pages.

Generally, emergency treatment in government hospitals is free. Any follow up treatment may be charged. If you use a private hospital, make sure you have comprehensive medical insurance or the funds to pay for it.

For access to the government healthcare system, which you may need to use even with private healthcare, residents must apply for a government health card. Cards can be purchased or renewed at clinics or online at the official portal of the Qatar Government.

For information on government heath services, see the Qatar Ministry of Public Health website.

Education

Independent schools are state-funded schools with the autonomy to recruit teachers and staff, and establish their own methods of teaching. The amount of funding allocated to each independent school depends on the number of teachers and students. Independent schools are free for Qatari citizens. Non-Qatari enrolments are subject to individual school policy.

Private schools operate either as commercial establishments or non-profit community schools sponsored by their embassies. Tuition may vary significantly from school to school. Private Schools are free to set their own curriculum. Many foreign schools base their curriculum on the standards of their home countries. However, all schools are required to meet the standards of the Qatar National School Accreditation system, as monitored by the Supreme Education Council’s Evaluation Institute.

For information about education and a list of schools in Qatar, visit the Education and Research section of the official portal of the Qatar Government.

Employment and recognised qualifications

For information on employment in Qatar, please visit the employment and workplace section of the official portal of the Qatar Government.

For recognition of UK educational qualifications and details of the legalisation process for Qatar please see the Qatar FCO website. In the publications section you find detailed instructions on how to prepare your documents for use in Qatar.

British nationals seeking advice on employment issues or disputes are advised to consult our guidance here.

Entry and residence requirements

For information on entry requirements, visit our Travel Advice pages.

Exit visa system

All residents except wives and children under the sponsorship of their family members are required to obtain an exit permit to leave Qatar. The sponsor is responsible for arranging the exit permit. Authorised users may complete the procedure online, through an Ministry of Interior self-service machine, or in person through:

  • Ministry of Interior Passports and Airport Security Department
  • Immigration offices in Hamad Medical Corporation, Al Khor, Al Dayin, Masaimeer, Al Shahaniya, Q-Post, Doha Industrial Area, Al Shamal, Al Wakrah, Souq Waqif, Umm Salal and Dukhan

There are two types of exit permits – multiple and single. A single exit permit is valid on a single exit and a multiple exit permit is valid for one year. Exit permits can be processed on line by the sponsor.

The British Embassy Doha cannot issue exit permits for British passport holders under any circumstances, this must be done through the employer and the Ministry of Interior.

British nationals who believe they have been unfairly denied an exit permit by their sponsor may seek redress through the Ministry of Interior. Further information on how to do this is available here.

Work Residence Permit

Expatriate workers are required to have a residence permit in order to live and work in Qatar.

The permit is granted to expatriates who hold employment contracts in Qatar. It is usually the responsibility of the sponsor to handle all paperwork involved in obtaining the residence permit. Applicants may not leave the country during the period of visa-to-permit conversion.

Transfer of employment

Transfer of employment in Qatar requires permission of the previous employer, and is subject to approval by the Ministry of Interior. Embassies have no standing in Qatar’s courts, and do not have the right to sponsor visas, or mediate labour or business disputes in Qatar. Although the British embassy can help by directing nationals to gain assistance from the Labour Dispute Department or the Committee for Human Rights, the ultimate responsibility for resolution of dispute lies in legal system of Qatar, and the parties involved. Without the release letter from the employer, the employee will be banned for two years from entering Qatar. You may be able to return as a visitor depending on the circumstances of your departure, you will need to check with the Qatari Immigration Authorities. This is best dealt with by your employers but if you wish to contact immigration directly you can go to an immigration office.

Register as working woman

Women who are in Qatar on family sponsorship may register to work in the country without obtaining a separate work permit. Applicants may visit the Ministry of Interior’s Labour Department to complete the application process.

Benefits

The Qatar Government does not provide social welfare benefits to non-Qatari nationals.
Find out what benefits you might be able to get while abroad and how to claim them by visiting Benefits if you’re abroad.

Driving licences and vehicles

All persons driving in Qatar are required to carry a valid driving licence. The Ministry of Interior’s Traffic Department regulates the issuance of licences. The minimum age for learning to drive is 18 years old.

For more information, visit the public services and transportation area of the official portal of the Qatar Government.

Finance

Financial crimes, including fraud, bouncing cheques (including post-dated and ‘security cheques’) and the non-payment of bills (including hotel bills) can often result in imprisonment and/or a fine in Qatar. Bank accounts and other assets may also be frozen. You may also be liable for cheques that have been signed by you on behalf of a company.

If you have unpaid loans or financial commitments you will not be able finish your employment in Qatar and exit the country. Any debt will need to be settled in full before your Residence Permit will be cancelled and your exit permit will be issued.

Residents of Qatar are able to open a local bank account.

There is no income tax on salaries or wages paid in Qatar. For information on corporation tax, contact the Ministry of Economy.

The UK does have a Double Taxation Agreement with Qatar.

For other investment opportunities in Qatar, visit the UKTI website and the Qatar Ministry of Finance website.

Guidance on bringing medication into Qatar

Some prescribed and over the counter medicines may be controlled substances in Qatar. If you need to bring in controlled/prescription medication into Qatar, ensure you carry your official signed and stamped doctor’s prescription or hospital note. To find out how to get a document legalised for use in Qatar, visit Legalisation of UK documents for use in the State of Qatar.

For further information please contact the Qatar Supreme Health Council.

Sponsoring family members

Male sponsor

A male expatriate can sponsor certain family members provided that their salary is not less than QR10, 000. The prospective sponsor must have their residence visa in their passport prior to starting the residence procedures for their family members. A male expatriate can sponsor the following family members:

  • wife
  • children
  • stepchildren
  • dependent parents

Sponsoring your wife in Qatar

A husband who wishes to sponsor his wife will need the following documents:

  • application form (available from employer / MOI)
  • passport in which the original entry permit has been stamped.
  • photographs
  • original medical clearance certificate.
  • copy of the husband’s employment contract.
  • salary certificate from the employer stating the employee’s monthly salary.
  • marriage certificate (legalised by relevant authority)

If the marriage certificate is British, the Qatari authorities require the marriage certificate to be attested. This should be done first by the Legalisation Office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and then by the Qatari Embassy in London. The certificate should then be taken to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Qatar.

Sponsoring your children in Qatar

A father can sponsor unmarried daughters up to any age and sons up until they are 25 years old. The following documents will be required in order to sponsor children:

  • the same documents as listed under the wife category.
  • the child’s birth certificate ( legalised by the relevant authority)

If the birth certificate is British, the Qatari authorities require the birth certificate to be attested. This should be done first by the Legalisation Office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and then by the Qatari Embassy in London. The certificate should then be taken to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Qatar.

If a British child was born in a country other than the UK and the birth was registered at the embassy in that country and a British birth registration certificate was issued, the certificate needs to be attested. This should be done first by the Legalisation Office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and then by the Qatari Embassy in London. If there was no British birth registration the birth certificate will need to be legalised by the country of origin.

Sponsoring your stepchildren in Qatar

Applications to sponsor stepchildren are considered by the immigration authorities on a case-by-case basis. The authorities may ask for additional or a variation on the following documents:

  • the same documents listed under the wife category.
  • if the biological father is deceased, the death certificate of the biological parent.
  • a No Objection letter from the biological father

This certificate has to be attested at the embassy of the country where the death certificate was issued and then certified by the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It may be required to be translated to Arabic.

If the death certificate was issued in the UK the attestation process should be done by the Legalisation Office of the FCO and then by the Qatari Embassy in London. The certificate should then be taken to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Qatar.

If the biological father is separated from the mother and is in agreement to the child’s move to the Qatar, he should make a declaration before a notary public in the UK. This declaration must state that the father has no objection to his child living Qatar under the sponsorship of the stepfather. This declaration should then be attested by the Legalisation Section of the FCO and then by the Qatar Embassy in London.

If, for whatever reason, a declaration cannot be obtained from the biological father, the Qatari authorities will require evidence that the mother has sole parental responsibility. The Qatari authorities may require a declaration signed by the stepfather undertaking to support the child throughout the family’s residency in the Qatar.

Female sponsor

In Qatar, a wife can only sponsor her husband and children if she holds a residence permit for certain professions and her salary is not less than QR10, 000. The same documents listed above will be required. A single mother may sponsor her child with the same documents needed under children. The Qatar authorities may ask for documents similar to those listed under the stepchildren category.

Socials ethics and traditions

Thinking about visiting or living in Qatar? There are a few things you need to know before you go and while you are here to ensure that either your stay or time living in Qatar is memorable, for all the right reasons. Keep in mind that you are no longer in the UK. Respect the laws and values of the country and your stay should be an extremely enjoyable one.

Traditions

Qatar is built on generations of Islamic traditions. These traditions have been passed down from generation to generation and form the very cornerstone of everyday life for a Qatari family. The Qataris are welcoming people who show tolerance and an open minded approach to visitors in their country and embrace change; but their culture and values should always be respected.

Expat community

In the last 20 years Doha has gone through a total transformation from small Arab pearl trading port into a modern city with a vision taking it through to 2030. The shopping malls and West Bay are vibrant and you will probably meet many people from many places and cultures, with different values and opinions. The population of Qatar is now over 2 million.

Social ethics

The culture and laws in Qatar are designed to ensure that everyone is respectful of each other regardless of their faith and nationality. Visitors and residents alike should avoid types of improper conduct and behaviour which can otherwise lead to fines, imprisonment and deportation. Alcohol consumption is allowed only by non-Muslims in licensed restaurants, bars, clubs and at home (for residents who have acquired a liquor licence). For those living in Qatar a special licence must be obtained with permission from your employer before purchasing alcohol from the only licensed alcohol store. This licence is only a permit for buying alcohol. It does not give any immunity for alcohol related criminal offences. It is an offence to carry alcohol in your car if you do not hold the liquor licence. If you come to the attention of the police you may be arrested, even though you may have purchased the alcohol legally. You need to be 21 or over in order to drink alcohol legally in Qatar.

Drugs are strictly forbidden, even a residual amount. Consuming or carrying drugs, even if you are transiting through the airport from one country to another, can result in severe penalties. Buying or selling narcotics is considered a serious crime which can result in life-imprisonment or can be punishable by death. If you are using prescribed drugs it is advisable to carry a doctor’s note with you. There is no prescribed list of banned medications for Qatar.

Sexual relationships outside of marriage are illegal, irrespective of any relationship you may have with your partner in the UK or elsewhere. Cohabiting, including in hotels is also illegal. If you become pregnant outside of marriage, both you and your partner face the possibility of imprisonment. There are also legal ramifications when registering the birth with the local authorities. Holding hands for married couples is tolerated but kissing and hugging are considered offences against public decency. Open displays of affection are generally not tolerated.

Dancing is allowed in the privacy of your home or at licensed clubs. But dancing in public is classed as indecent and provocative. Sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public, or taking their photos without permission, is strictly frowned upon. Offensive language, spitting and aggressive behaviour (including hand gestures) are viewed very seriously and can result in imprisonment and deportation. This includes “road rage”.

Qatar has a zero-tolerance policy towards drinking and driving. You can be charged and imprisoned if you are caught with even the smallest amount of alcohol in your system. Smoking is forbidden inside government areas, offices and shopping malls. There are however many designated areas where smoking is allowed.

Dress code

Qatari’s dress conservatively in traditional dress and can be offended when people dress inappropriately or not in accordance with Islamic values. In public places such as shopping malls, restaurants and parks, you are encouraged to dress appropriately. Clothing should not be transparent, indecently expose parts of the body or display offensive pictures or slogans. Be aware that if you enter one of these areas dressed inappropriately you may be asked to leave. Any form of nudity is strictly forbidden, including topless sunbathing.

Respect for religion

Islamic religious values are greatly respected in the Qatar. Showing any disrespect towards religious beliefs or practices is considered deeply offensive and very likely to result in a heavy fine and/or imprisonment. Other religions are respected and can be followed by the expatriate community.

Learn a few simple facts:

  • Muslims pray five times a day. You will notice that the Mosques call people to pray through a speaker system. At this time you will also notice public music is turned off as Muslims perform their daily prayers.
  • be aware that drivers, who are not close to a Mosque, may stop at a convenient lay-by to pray privately.
  • during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Throughout this month eating, drinking, smoking, playing loud music and dancing in public places during daylight hours are strictly forbidden and punishable by law, including for non-Muslims.
  • every evening during Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the breaking of their fast with an evening meal called Iftar. You will find many hotels and restaurants throughout Qatar who provide Iftar buffets.

In summary

The vast majority of British expatriates and visitors have a trouble free and enjoyable time while staying or living in Qatar. Foreign and Commonwealth Office research shows that the majority of difficulties that British nationals find themselves in abroad can be avoided. Respecting local laws and customs can help you avoid getting into trouble. Have a great time in Qatar, but make the necessary preparations to ensure you are well-informed and know what is expected of you as a visitor and resident of this country. For further information please visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Advice. British nationals who are living in Qatar can sign up for the embassy newsletter by sending an e-mail to doha.newsletter@fco.gov.uk. Those registered with us receive regular newsletters, which include information on changes to laws or procedures and events taking place at the embassy and within the British community.

Leaving Qatar

If you have been resident of Qatar and are leaving for good, you will need to cancel your residency status, close all your accounts (bank and credit cards) and pay off fines or debts. Failure to do so could delay your departure or mean you are marked on the immigration system as an absconder or debtor. This could cause problems in the future, even if you transit.

You can apply to the Ministry of Interior for a Certificate of Good Conduct. For further information visit the Ministry of Interior Website.

Disclaimer

This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.

Published 25 November 2013