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Moving to Doha

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What you need to keep in mind when relocating to Qatar....

Schools

Most expat kids in Qatar will attend one of the schools in Doha. This is so true, that when some expats speak about the education system in Qatar, then they are really speaking about the system in Doha. The education facilities in the city are widely regarded as being of a world class standard, with a wide range of private international schools being available in Doha. These schools cater to a variety of needs, and follow the various curricula from all over the world, including British, American, French and German syllabuses.
“Home-schooling” is permitted in Doha, but some fairly ambiguous legislation on the subject does present its own challenges.
Schools in Doha

The Phoenix Private School provides education according to the national curriculum of England and Wales and accepts children aged between - 3 to 14. Offering small class sizes to ensure that students receive all the attention they deserve, the school has an intensive after-school programme to support and promote social learning and exercise.
Location: PPS, Building no. 16, Zone 43, Street 775, Al Afnan Street, Mamoura

This IB (International Baccalaureate) World School features art studios, science laboratories, a 250-seat auditorium and a 50m, Olympic-sized swimming pool, amonst some other very impressive other world-class facilities.
Location: Garafat Al Rayyan and Dukhan Highway

One of the oldest schools in Qatar, Doha College is home to 1,200 students aged between 3 and 18, drawn from over 50 nationalities. Doha college offers education according to the British curriculum.
Location: Al Bustan Street, Doha, Qatar

The school is registered as a British school in the UK and is an affiliated member of Cambridge University of London. With separate facilities for boys and girls, the school teaches both the British National curriculum alongside the National Arabic and Islamic Studies curriculum of Qatar.
Location: Near the intersection of E Industrial Street and Khaled Bin Ahmed Street

Housing

Since 2004 there has been a substantial increase in properties in Doha following the demolition of a lot of the older housing stock to make way for the new housing developments. Prior to the huge development in West Bay, the heart of the city was considered to be the most desirable location to rent a property, but since the population of Doha has increased so much in recent years there is now a much wider choice of popular locations available.  For apartments however, the West Bay area remains extremely desirable with many apartments boasting a gym and pool in the building with a security and maintenance team on site.
Doha traffic can be pretty heavy most of the time, so I would recommend that you choose your accommodation close to you or your partner’s work place, and/ or children’s schools.

The easiest approach if you want a luxury villa or flat then go to the global real estate agents and be prepared to pay around 11,0000 to 13,000 QAR / month for a flat and 12,500 to 18,000 / month for a villa. Beware however that judging from afar on a website might leave you not quite getting what you expected.In the mid-price bracket probably the best way to go about it is to aim for well-known compounds such as Ain-Khalid, Al-Azizia, &Beverly Hills, and use local agencies like Al-Asmakh Real Estate or Zukhrof Real Estate. This could result in a considerable monthly saving, and gives you a local point of contact if your accommodation is not quiet what you expected. Compound Villas are most the most popular form of housing in Doha. The facilities are often good and many include a swimming pool, gym, and a children’s play area. Larger compounds usually have a small supermarket on site which can be very handy for essentials.If you are on a tight budget then why not try Wakra or EZDAN Villages. Located just outside Doha you will save a lot of money as prices are generally around half of what you can find in Doha. (flats - 3200 QAR/month up to 6500 QAR/month, whilst  villas are 7500 QAR/month up to 8500 QAR/month).
 

Jobs

The country is a monarchy with Doha as the capital and urban centre. A population of just over 1.4 million lives and works in Qatar and 80% of that population s to be found in the wider Doha area. Many top companies constantly recruiting top international talent. With vacancies in the Oil, Gas, Banking, Financial Services, IT and Telecoms sectors, there are always plenty of opportunities in Doha.
The main sources of income in this city are oil and gas. With the current rush of infrastructure and gas development projects under way, there is a high demand for workers to fill engineering, construction and technical jobs in Doha. But Doha is also home to the thriving transportation and hospitality industries, providing plenty of opportunities in this sector too
Everybody living & working in Doha is required to have a work visa. Expats will need an employer to sponsor their work visa before arrival. Every aspect of employment in Doha job is regulated under the Qatar labour laws. New regulations governing sponsorship came into effect in 2009, enabling expatriates to switch jobs when they are in dispute with their employers.
Working times
Qatar generally follows a Sunday to Thursday working week, with Friday and Saturday making up the weekend. Some businesses however will operate a half-a-day on Thursday and will be closed all day on Friday. Government offices tend to be open between 6am and 2pm, whilst commercial offices work in two shifts – in the morning from 7.30am to 12noon, and later from 3.30am to 7.30pm, with many small variations on this theme. All banks are open from 7.30am to 1pm, but a few branches, usually those in shopping centres will open in the evenings.
Popular shopping malls open from 10am to 10pm, with the majority of them closed on Friday mornings. Independent shops are generally open from 8am to 12.30pm, and from 4pm to 9pm. And most of them are closed on Fridays.
During the holy month of Ramadan a change in opening times is likely, particularly in government offices, with a reduction in working hours. Commercial shops will shut down during the breaking of the fast, (just after sunset), and will open again later in the evening.
 

Bank Accounts

Hole-in-the-wall cash machines are widely available in Doha, and they usually accept a wide range of both national and international debit cards. You should expect to pay a fee for using a ATM operated by banks other than your own, and cash withdrawals may be restricted to a daily limit. Virtually all of the ATMs in Doha can be operated either in Arabic or English.
Credit Cards
Whilst Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, American Express and Diners Club are less so. Withdrawing cash from an ATM using a credit card, will always incur a fee.
Haggling over prices in Doha is usual except when you pay with a credit card. In that case you will have to pay the first price the seller names, and there will likely to be a surcharge applied to cover the cost of the credit card transactions.
Cheques
Since May 2010, the post-dating of cheques has no longer been accepted, meaning that the recipient of the cheque (regardless of the date entered on the cheque) will be able to present the cheque immediately to their bank. This has proven a problem for the tenants of rented properties in Doha as it used to be accepted practice to issue a series of post-dated cheques to the landlord for the duration of a tenancy. Your employer should be able to help out here .
Going overdrawn
Unauthorised overdrafts of any form attract substantial penalty charges and fees, so avoid this if you can. Ii is considered a serious criminal offence to issue a cheque without the necessary funds in your account, and the police may be notified at the discretion of the bank (or creditor) concerned. Prosecution often follows and the punishments can be harsh, including prison terms. So before you write a cheque, make sure you have adequate funds in your account.
Money transfers to and from Doha
As well as the standard money transfer services offered by the banks, there are a wide variety of specialist money transfer businesses in Doha. Do research the fee structures and exchange rates carefully before you transfer money as these vary wildly.
Bank charges
Current accounts in Doha are typically free of charge so long as a minimum account balance is maintained. If charges do apply these will vary between account types and banks, so once again it is advisable to research charges carefully before you open an account.
 

Visas

Visitor Visa
Citizens of the following countries, who have a valid passport, will be issued a visitor entry visas before arriving at the border, although be aware that holders of this visa are not allowed to work in Doha. Visitor visas are usually issued in 2 days prior to arrival and remain valid for up to 14 days, which could be extended by another 14 days.
The countries covered under this visa include The United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece , Finland, Spain, Monaco, the Vatican, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Lichtenstein, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea.
Work Visa
Work visas are issued to private entities, companies, and individuals. Work visas need to be approved by Ministry of Interior. The fee and collection of visa is taken care of by the sponsor. A separate visa will be required for your partner and children. This visa grants permission for long stays The approvals are carried out by the permanent committee for arrivals.
Official Visa
An official visa is issued free of charge at the request of ministries and government establishments. It is initially valid for a period of one month, which could be extended to five months, following medical tests and fingerprints.
 
Visa Application

The Embassy of Doha does not offer any express or expedited services, and there is no additional fee charged for any application, but be aware that all passports must be submitted and picked up between 9.30am and 12.30pm (Monday to Thursday).
A completed application form (clearly printed) should be accompanied by a non-refundable application processing fee in the form of a money order or company cheque. Cash or personal cheques are not accepted. The cheque should be made out to “Embassy of the State of Doha”. Each application should be paid for separately. A single payment for two or more applications will not be accepted.
The passport submitted by the applicant should be valid for longer than six months than the intended duration of stay in Doha and should have space available to place a visa.
Every application should be accompanied by two passport size photographs (colour), original passports, two additional photocopies of first few pages of the passport, a company letter (in case of Business or working visa), invitation letter (for tourist visa), and if you are an individual applicant, the reason for entry visa request.

Cost of Living

Even with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, Doha is actually one of the more affordable Gulf region destinations. Prices have remained fairly steady, even during the past few years of world economic downturn and ensuing recovery. Most of the population lives in and around Doha City, so discussions about living costs in Qatar are really about the cost of living in Doha.

Accomodation

A family home or apartment in a popular expat area typically starts at around 12,000 QAR per month. Rent usually includes access to communal areas, such as a gym, pool, and you will often find facilities like mini markets and nurseries present. Similarly, rent for a family-sized villa (five bedrooms plus maid’s quarters) in an expat area will start at around 20,000 QAR per month. As in the west the prices of stand-alone villas are set by the landlord and/or owner. Despite laws intended to protect renters from annual price rises this rent increase are commonplace. So bear this in mind when arranging a lease.
Cost of food in Doha
Qatar relies heavily on imports so consequently and so it follows that food prices are high. Buying local will therefore always save a little, whilst buying the familiar brand names from home will always cost more. Shopping around for certain essentials is a good tip, as prices can vary by several riyals depending on the store. There is a wide variety of grocery stores, from Carrefour for bargains to the more expensive Megamart, with international brands and specialty items. In between there are a host of neighbourhood shops and local establishments, such as Family Food Center, Food World, Al Meera, Lulu Hypermarket and Qmart.

Schooling

Some employee packages will include schooling for your children, but many such deals have a maximum for the number of children they will fund (3-5). And whilst some deals will offer school compensation from three years of age, and others will start at age five. All these details vary, so it’s best to check this out thoroughly before contracting a school. Keep in mind that tuition fees from the international schools is expensive. Fees range start from around 20,000 - 30,000 QAR and upwards, depending on your child's age and the range of after-school or extracurricular activities.

Medical Costs
Qatar’s Hamad Hospital and clinic system offer free healthcare to nationals and to residents, once a health card has been obtained either from the employer’s Human Resources office or via the hospital system directly. Health cards only cost 100 QAR and are valid for a year. Emergency services are free, while a visits to a clinic without a health card are 30 QAR. But be aware that as everyone in the country does have access to these services, waiting times can be very long and the appointment system is not as punctual as in some other countries.

Transportation
Qatar does not yet have an extensive public transportation system. There are plans for monorails and a train connection from Doha to Bahrain, and the UAE. There are however bus routes powered by Mowasalat, but these are chaotically organized. Taxis, often for private hire via a limousine service, like Fox Transport, cost around 35 QAR for a one day hire, and about the same for an hour of waiting. Meter taxis, (branded Karwa), are also available and usually charge a tariff of around 30 QAR picked-up from the airport and otherwise the starting rate is about 10 QAR, with a fixed meter price. In either case, when you need a taxi, it is probably best to book them in advance, especially at the weekends and weekday mornings when many people use them for the school run, as there is no school bus system.

Medical Care

Doha, as with so much else, is at the centre of Qatar’s medical infrastructure. Here, you can easily access a range of high quality public and private healthcare centres in the capital of Doha. The Hamad General Hospital in Doha's west side, close to Aspire Park, is a government-owned and operated state of the art facility that provides free and subsidised healthcare. Close to the Hamad General Hospital is the Women's Hospital. Opened in 1988 to address the specialised medical needs of women in Doha has recently undergone a number of major improvements which were completed in 2013. To the north of the city, there are three key facilities located in close together. The Rumailah Hospital which, specialises in convalescence, rehabilitation and treating the elderly, is the most northerly. To the south of the Rumailah are the National Center for Cancer Care & Research, and the Heart Hospital.
See below for a list of public hospitals in Doha.

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is a non-profit government-run health care provider in Doha. It runs 24 primary health care centres or community clinics and five hospitals. Health care services are available at a heavily subsidised rate at HMC clinics and hospitals. These services can be accessed using the government-issued Health Card. Once you have your residence visa you can apply for a Health Card at the Health Card Office in any HMC Clinic or at the Rumailah Hospital.
If you have just arrived in Doha and do not have your residence visa or Health Card yet, you can still visit HMC hospitals and clinics. Doctors and specialists will attend to anyone who requires medical attention, although you will have to pay the full fee.
Private Health Care
Private health care in Doha is efficient and affordable. There are a number of private health care facilities. These facilities adhere to the national standards adopted by the Supreme Council of Health, but are not covered by the Health Card.
Private insurance is a must, if you prefer private medical care. Private clinics and hospitals in Doha are expensive and without health insurance prices are prohibitively high. There are several local and international health insurance providers in Doha, all offering comprehensive health coverage. Before shopping for insurance, check which if any private health insurances schemes are provided by your employer, for you and your family.

Driving Licence

When you arrive in Doha, you can drive within the country for 7 days if you possess a valid driving license. For individuals planning to reside in Doha for more than six months, you need to apply for a temporary or permanent Qatari Driving License. Once you are a resident of Doha, then you need to hold a Permanent Qatari License. With a temporary license you can rent a car, but you may not be insured to drive a privately owned car (this is decided by the insurance company, contacted them for more details). Once you have a residence permit, the temporary license can be converted into a permanent one. Provided your residency permit is valid for at least 5 years.
If visiting Doha from western countries including Canada and the UK for work purposes you can just change your national driving license for a Qatari one at the Medinat Khalifat Traffic Department, without taking a driving test. Residents of other countries will have to pass a driving test to obtain their local driving license. You also need a residence permit to be able to apply for a Doha driving license. The usual procedure includes an eye test as well as a written test.
If you do not have a valid driving license you will have to enrol yourself at a driving school in Doha. Depending on your driving skills, you may be required to take the full course of 25 lessons, or just a half course of 12 lessons.
Driving Schools in Doha

  • Al Rayah Driving School
  • Doha Driving Centre
  • Gulf Driving School
  • United Driving Company

The Qatari driving test has four parts - an oral test for the road and traffic signs, an L-Parking test, a pocket parking test and the actual road test. Each of these tests is a pre-requisite of the next one. Once you have passed one, you need not repeat it. All tests are done in cars with a manual transmission cars, with up to four people in the car, each taking turns to drive.

Tax

Qatar’s very low tax regime is one of the major attractions of moving there, but there are still some tax charges and issues for expatriates to be aware of. Life in Doha is largely tax-free. Foreigners that live and work in Doha have to pay very little tax to the country's government. Only if a foreigner operates a business in Qatar do they need to pay any form of income tax. There isn’t any road tax, car tax, television licence fee, council tax, income tax or VAT in Doha, but there have been rumours that in recent years that VAT at five to seven percent may be introduced at some point in the future. But the rumours haven’t been confirmed.
Import Tax
An import tax is levied on all the products brought into the country that are going to be resold commercially; about four to five percent of the value of the goods is the cost that you will have to pay on tax.
Buying a new car from overseas is likely to be subject to the four to five percent import tax - but importing a previously purchased car may not.
Service Tax
There is a seven percent government tax on food and drink purchased in hotels. Previously hotels would add a ten percent service charge to the bills as well, but there have been moves from the government during 2011 to stop hotels adding this fee to restaurant tariffs.
Corporate Tax
Corporate Tax of ten percent is levied on all profits made by businesses owned, or partly owned, by foreigners in Qatar.

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