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 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 your nearest health centre. More information can be found on the health section of 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.
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 FCDO 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.

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. Once the process to get a residence permit has begun, applicants should not leave the country as the application will be rejected and the process will have to start again on re-entering Qatar.

Transfer of employment

The ability to change your employer and when you can do this will all depend on the type of contract you have, fixed term or indefinite, with your current employer.

To change your employer before the end of a fixed term contract or the lapse of five years, if employment was under the terms of an indefinite contract, you will need approval from the following:

  1. your current employer in the form of a No Objection Certificate;
  2. the Ministry of Administration Development, Labour and Social Affairs; and
  3. the Ministry of Interior’s Immigration Department

For further information, please refer to the employment and workplace section of the official portal of the Qatar Government.

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 or the service centres to complete the application process.

Requirement:

  1. Copy of Company Registration Card.
  2. Copy of passport with a valid residence (Temporary residency for individuals bearing a Qatari document).
  3. Copy of academic certificates certified and translated + License to practice for medical professions
  4. Copy of current sponsor’s ID Card.
  5. Photo ID
  6. Certificate of good conduct issued by the State of Qatar.
  7. Letter of resignation or statement of services termination in case of a previous job.
  8. Labour Contract (3 original counterparts)
  9. Letter of approval from the Ministry of Education & Higher Education (for Independent schools, private schools and kindergarten).
  10. Letter of approval from the Family Affairs Department - Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour & Social Affairs (for nurseries)
  11. Letter of approval from the Social Development Centre (for beauty salons)

Exit visa

In 2019 the requirement for most expatriate workers in Qatar to hold a valid exit permit when leaving the country was abolished. However, certain companies are able to nominate up to 5% of their workforce as still requiring an exit permit. You should check with your sponsor if this applies to you. The sponsor is responsible for arranging the exit permit. This requirement does not extend to spouses and children under the sponsorship of family members.

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’s Expatriate Exit Grievance Committee. Further information can be sought from any Government Services Centre (a full list of centres is available here

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. You can drive in Qatar with a valid UK driving licence for up to 12 months. If you intend to drive using your UK licence in Qatar, you should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP 1968) before travelling. If you’re staying longer than 12 months, you will need to apply for a Qatari driving licence and sit both the theory and practical tests. The minimum age for learning to drive is 18 years old. Certain professions are not allowed to apply for a driving licence.

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

The British embassy cannot issue or renew a UK driving licence. Information about renewing a licence or applying for a new licence is available here

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.

When leaving Qatar you should ensure that any outstanding financial commitments have been settled in full. You should obtain a letter from your bank / lender to confirm that all debts have been settled and/or your bank account closed. Should you leave any unpaid debts or fines, you may be prevented from leaving by the Immigration Authorities at the airport.

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

There is no income tax on salaries or wages paid in Qatar.

The UK does have a Double Taxation Agreement with Qatar. For further information, please refer to UK / Qatar Tax Treaties

For other investment opportunities in Qatar, visit the DIT 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 permit prior to starting the residence permit application for their family members. A male expatriate can sponsor the following family members:

  • wife
  • children
  • stepchildren

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 & a copy
  • photographs
  • original medical clearance certificate
  • copy of the husband’s employment contract
  • salary certificate from the employer stating the employee’s monthly salary
  • 6 months’ of bank statements
  • 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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) 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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) 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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) 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. You may wish to approach the immigration authorities before submitting any application. 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

The death 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 into Arabic.

If the death certificate was issued in the UK the attestation process should be done by the Legalisation Office of the FCDO 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 FCDO 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 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 your time 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 almost 3 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.

It is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public. 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. Don’t carry alcohol around with you (except to take it on the day of collection from the warehouse to your home). 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. The legal drinking age in Qatar is 21, and establishments serving alcohol will ask for original photo ID upon entry.

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. You will also find it very difficult to seek medical attention during the pregnancy and there are 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. Homosexual behaviour is illegal in Qatar. There have been some reports of individuals being punished for homosexual activity and/or sexual activity outside marriage, particularly where there is any public element, or the behaviour has caused offence. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

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.

Be aware of cultural sensitivities when filming or photographing people and religious, military or construction sites. Some visitors attempting to film or photograph in sensitive areas have been arrested. If in doubt, seek permission.

Dress code

Qataris dress conservatively in traditional dress and can be offended when people dress inappropriately or not in accordance with Islamic values. You should dress modestly when in public, including while driving and in public places such as shopping malls, restaurants and parks. Clothing should not be transparent, indecently expose parts of the body or display offensive pictures or slogans. Women should cover their shoulders and avoid wearing short skirts. 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.

Leaving Qatar

If you have been a resident of Qatar and are leaving for good, you will need to cancel your residency status. As part of this process, you will need to:

  • close all your accounts (bank and credit cards)
  • pay off any fines and all debts
  • cancel Kahrama, Ooredoo and mobile phone subscriptions
  • check Metrash 2 for any outstanding traffic violations
  • check that there is no outstanding travel ban against you. These can be imposed upon you for any sort of criminal, civil or immigration violation. They will normally only be lifted once the matter has been settled.

Failure to complete the steps above 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 only transit through Qatar.

You can apply to the Ministry of Interior for a Certificate of Good Conduct. For further information visit the Ministry of Interior Website. We recommend that you apply for this before leaving Qatar.

In summary

The vast majority of British expatriates and visitors have a trouble free and enjoyable time while staying or living in Qatar. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development 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, Commonwealth & Development Office’s Travel Advice, as well as our guide about the support we are able to offer British nationals abroad.

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 FCDO 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

Published 25 November 2013