Visas for Qatar
Getting a visa for Qatar is fairly straightforward, with waiting periods likely to be the biggest inconvenience. Hukoomi, the government’s ePortal, makes visa applications for Qatar somewhat easier. Expats can simply track their applications by entering their country of citizenship, their application number and passport details.
It should be noted, however, that little work is accomplished during Ramadan and it’s best for visa applications to be submitted well before or just after the holy month.
Tourist visas for Qatar
Residents of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and citizens of the 33 countries listed by the Qatari government can receive their tourist or visit visa on arrival without prior application or additional documentation. This list of countries includes Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK and most of Western Europe. South Africa and countries on the Indian subcontinent, including India and Pakistan, are excluded from this list.
Nationals from countries that are not on the list can apply for a tourist visa through their nearest Qatari foreign mission or a list of authorised hotels, which can be seen on the Hukoomi site.
People travelling to Qatar are advised to have a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date of their arrival in the country. They are also required to show proof of accommodation and a credit or savings balance of at least around 5,100 QAR. Depending on passport control, it may also be necessary to produce a return ticket.
Tourist visas are valid for a maximum of one month, and expats who want to stay longer will have to apply for a Residence Permit after they arrive.
Business visas for Qatar
Expats coming to the country for work purposes need to get a business visa for Qatar. The local business receiving the overseas visitor often takes responsibility for the process, and will need to provide a letter of invitation as part of it. Business visas can be applied for online, are usually valid for one month and can be extended for a further two months.
Visas only guarantee entry into the country, however, and those looking to work in Qatar for extended periods of time will require a permit.
Residence permits for Qatar
To stay in the emirate, expats enter on the relevant visa and apply for a working residence permit for Qatar after they arrive. Permits are only granted to applicants who are sponsored by a company or a family member in the country who earns more than the minimum threshold.
Expats have to stay in Qatar while their entry visa is converted to a residence permit.
►Step 1 – Find a job
Expats must first secure a job before applying for their working visa. Once this is done, the employer is largely responsible for the application process.
►Step 2 – Work entry visa application
After negotiating the terms of employment, the employer applies for a business entry visa at the Ministry of the Interior. Given the number of foreign workers in Qatar, many companies are familiar with the application process and some even have a separate department devoted to it.
The company should know which documents are needed to start the application process, since requirements often vary between jobs. Expats should have multiple, notarised copies of all the required documents for their personal records.
Applications generally take four to eight weeks, after which a copy of the approval can be printed out from the Qatari Ministry of the Interior website.
This document is provided at the border entry point in Qatar, where the corresponding visa is granted.
►Step 3 – Applying for a residence permit in Qatar
Applying for a residence permit in Qatar can be tedious, and certain documents will have to be brought from the employee's home country. The employer should confirm the specifics but this generally includes police clearance, passport photos, copies of qualifications and the employment contract.
After arriving in Qatar, the employer arranges a medical check-up for the employee. Once this is completed and the necessary documents are gathered, the residence permit application is filed. This can take up to six weeks.
Part of the residency process is passing a medical test. To do this, expats first have to obtain a blood-type certificate from any clinic. Afterwards, a medical test is taken at the Supreme Council of Health, which certifies that the patient doesn’t have HIV or TB.
Although the process is simple, waiting times can be long. Expats should go early, bring a good book and postpone their other appointments.
To go for a medical test in Qatar, expats will need a passport and copies, passport photos and an application form translated into Arabic.
After the medical test, the applicant needs to go for fingerprinting, which can be done at the General Directorate of Civil Defence or Civil Investigation Department. Application forms are available on site, or will be organised in advance by the employer. They must be translated into Arabic, which can also be done on site.
Expats who have a residence work permit for Qatar and earn more than 7,000 QAR per month can legally sponsor their family for a residence visa.
Certain documents have to be submitted to the Ministry of Labour in Qatar, including application forms for each family member, an employer’s letter, passport copies and proof of residence, as well as birth and marriage certificates where applicable.
Expats in Qatar on a family-sponsored residence permit are not allowed to work but can apply to the Labour Department for the right to do so after they arrive.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.