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Moving to Qatar

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

Schools

The education system has improved significantly since the 1950’s. However, just like life in Qatar in general, education in particular is based on the country’s Islamic roots. This is reflected in the strict gender segregation in public schools and universities.
Expat children often attend private international schools in Qatar. Most of them have only established recently and many of them are located in Doha. Independent schools welcome the children of expats as well. Currently, there are some137 independent schools and kindergartens in Qatar, which offer a curricula in both Arabic and English.
Higher Education in Qatar
Expatriates find International and private schools popular but many locals also attend these schools. Most schools have a waiting list so your best option is to contact the school of your choice well in advance. Depending on a place being available schools will accept you any time of the year. When you apply for a school you will need a copy of the applicant’s passport, a recent school report, 2 passport photos and an up-to-date immunisation card.
To be admitted in to certain years your child might have to take an entry exam, and it is quite common that the school will request a meeting with the family prior to admittance. The schools follow national curriculums from different countries for example the British, French and American. The exams sat by the children are in accordance with the curriculum which the school follows – GCSEs and A-levels (or equivalent exams for the various curriculums).

Housing

Expat accommodation in Qatar ranges from individual villas to sprawling expat compounds, and even apartments. Despite expectations of rental prices getting more expensive due to amongst other international events, the FIFA world cup in 2022, they have actually remained fairly constant over the past few years.
Given the expansion of the country and new arriving immigrants to Qatar every year, it is often difficult to find accommodation at good prices. Fortunately there are several possibilities for expatriates;
Accommodation in "compounds"
Located in closed and secured neighbourhoods, compounds are groups of individual or terraced houses with facilities like pools, gyms etc. The expatriate community find accommodation in compounds very popular.
Accommodation in individual houses
You may well rent an individual house located outside "compounds". Houses are often larger outside compounds and often have a garden or a yard. Individual houses availability is limited.
Apartments:
Given the urban development, many big flats have been built in Qatar. Apartments are available for rent, furnished or unfurnished, but they all have basic amenities and air conditioning.
Where to look for accommodation in Qatar?
Companies in Qatar often call upon the services of professional relocation agencies to find accommodation for their expatriate employees. If you haven’t got the services of a relocation agency, you can find accommodation to rent directly from owners or through estate agencies. You can also ask your employer, your colleagues or your HR representative.
And prices?
Accommodation prices vary a lot in Qatar. For your information, a 3 or 4 rooms apartment/house can easily cost around QaR 10,000 to 20,000 (Qatar Riyals) per month depending on the location. 

Jobs

Most expats relocating from the West find that working in Qatar involves a surprisingly smooth transition. According to the Qatari Information Exchange (QALM), foreigners make up over 90% of the emirate’s working population in 2012. As a result, English has actually replaced Arabic as the standard language of business, so many office environments can feel eerily familiar despite their distance from home.
However, the work culture in the Arab world is largely different to that of the West. It would be sensible for Expatriates to educate themselves about doing business in Qatar and the Middle East in general. Above everything else do not expect too much to happen too quickly.
The standard work week in Qatar runs from Sunday to Thursday but work hours will vary depending on your employer.
Banks, schools and government agencies often prefer beginning and ending the day early, running from 7.30am to 3.30pm. Shops and trading companies may opt for dividing their day between 8am to 1pm, and 4pm to 7pm. On the other hand, corporations and small-business owners may enforce a more standardised work day from 8.30am to 5.30pm.
Across the board, however, work hours aren't usually negotiable and those in senior positions should expect to work overtime and on weekends.
Changing jobs in Qatar
One of the downsides to working in the Qatar is the fact that expats haven’t got a lot of options when it comes to changing jobs. Contracts in Qatar are often open-ended with clauses written in banning employees from starting a new job without leaving the country first for six months.

Bank Accounts

Both national and international banks can be found in Qatar. Some banks provide very western services like drive-in banking, and mobile banking for customers who live in outlying areas. Large companies often have banks located on-premises, as do a number of government departments. Retail banking services available in Qatar include branch banking, online and telephone banking. The use of credit, debit and cash cards is widespread, but cash remains a popular form of payment for everyday transactions. Bank statements and official banking correspondence can be provided either in Arabic or English, and many of the banks in Qatar provide counter services in both languages. There are three main types of bank account in Qatar used for everyday banking and savings;

Current account – typically used for everyday banking. Current accounts generally have no monthly fees so long as a minimum balance is maintained (around 3,000 QAR or £525 GBP) and many offer unlimited transactions. Interest rates paid on current accounts are generally low
Savings account – typically pays a higher rate of interest than current accounts, but access to funds may be limited, and savings accounts may allow only a certain number of fee-free withdrawals. Savings accounts typically require a minimum balance of around 5,000 QAR (£875 GBP) to be maintained
Fixed-deposit account – these accounts are primarily for long-term saving, with interest rates offered typically higher than either current or savings accounts. These accounts may offer limited or no access to funds until the account matures, and minimum account balances can be around 20,000 QAR (£3,500 GBP)

Opening a bank account with one of the main banks is a relatively simple process. You will need:

  • A reference letter from your employer, stating your salary and their approval for you to open an account. In some instances, opening an account with your employer’s bank can make the application process simpler.
  • Passport (plus copies).
  • Residency permit (if applicable).

Visas

To work in Qatar, it is essential to be in possession of a valid residence permit and a work visa. Administrative procedures to get legal authorizations to live and work in Qatar can be complex. First, you’ll have to find a "sponsor", a local employer wishing to hire you. The sponsor starts the work visa application by requesting to the Ministry of Interior of Qatar for the legal authorizations to hire a foreign worker. The sponsor has a particular role to play since he must vouch for you whether when you open a bank account or when you sign a rental lease in the country.
When you have a job your new employer will apply for a NOC certificate for you and this will then be stamped onto your passport before entering Doha Airport. You need to have this before you can enter the country. Once this is done you then need to apply for a residence Visa and this normally takes two to six weeks and if you have to leave the country during this period you will have to start all over again.
People with a work visa can bring their families with them. They must sponsor residence permits for their family members under 25 years old. Recently it has become possible for women to sponsor residence permits for their husbands. The residence permit does not allow employment in Qatar. If dependants wish to work in Qatar, they must in turn find a sponsor and undertake the administrative procedures for obtaining a work permit.
If a foreign worker has to leave Qatar temporarily, an exit visa is needed. The exit visa does not apply for dependants.

Cost of Living

As with living in any other country, the major monthly expense is the cost of your accommodation. Similarly the price of your rent will be decided by the type of property and its location. Most expats moving to Qatar live in its largest city, Doha, and people often choose which area they live in according to availability and proximity to work or their children’s school.
The cost of petrol in Qatar is cheap – just one QAR per litre – which adds to the intense love affair people have with their cars. It may also explain the country’s nearly non-existent public transport system.
Medical insurance
Health insurance is normally organised by employers, the healthcare standard in Qatar is good. If health insurance is not included in your payment package, highly subsidised health and dental care with Hamad Medical Corporation can be accessed with the purchase of a Hamad Card (100 QAR).
Eating out
Good value, though of course it depends where you eat. For example you can eat your in an cheap Indian restaurant, or spend 200 in a hotel restaurant. There are a lot of different restaurants in Qatar that vary in food and prices.
Cars
You’ll need about 15,000 riyals for an average car. (If you are brave you could get a bargain in the auctions), but maintenance, fuel and insurance are all cheap.
Other transport
Buses cost 2 riyals for journeys inside the city and 7 for journeys outside. Taxis start at 3 riyals and charge a further 1 riyal per kilometre – but their booking service is hopeless, which is why people often use limos.

Medical Care

Qatar’s healthcare services are internationally recognized and are of a high standard, when compared to other developed countries. The healthcare system is available to everyone, and it provides the most advanced medical equipment and highly qualified staff through a countrywide network of hospitals and healthcare centres.
National Health Strategy
The National Health Strategy 2011-2016 (NHS) is a comprehensive program of reforms, aligned to the Qatar National Vision 2030 that will advance Qatar’s Healthcare Vision of creating a world-class, patient-centred healthcare system.
The Supreme Council of Health itself does not provide direct healthcare services; this is the responsibility of public health care providers, such as the Hamad Medical Corporation and other private healthcare providers.
Since its establishment, the Hamad Medical Corporation has become Qatar's leading non-profit healthcare provider, offering its patients a nationwide network of Primary Health Care Centres and highly specialized hospitals.
Private medical service facilities
Besides Hamad Medical Corporation as a non-profit healthcare provider, there are also a number of private medical service facilities that provide healthcare to the public. Private practices and clinics provide a full scope of medical services, from specialist consultations, through dentistry, rehabilitation, home nursing care or hospital procedures and surgeries.

Driving Licences

Currently, anyone who holds either a GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and UAE) licence, or a licence from one of the following countries, is permitted to obtain a full Qatar driving licence without having to pass a test: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA and Vatican City.
Drivers who do not hold a licence from one of these countries, or who have no licence at all, are required to take a driving test.

Where to apply for a licence
To get a licence, either temporary or permanent, go to the Madinat Khalifa Traffic Department. From 07:00 to 11:00 and 16:00 to 19:00 the offices are open.
The process
To obtain a full driving licence, the following documents must be presented at the Madinat Khalifa Traffic Department:

  • Original licence from one of the countries listed above
  • A letter of no objection/permission from the sponsor, written in Arabic
  • A copy of the trade licence of the sponsoring company
  • A copy of the sponsor’s ID
  • Passport (original and copies)
  • Three passport photos
  • Qatar ID card

You’ll have to fill out an application form, which must be typed in Arabic and signed by your sponsor. Translation typing services are cheap and you can find them everywhere in Qatar. The form can be downloaded in advance, but needs to be filled out at the Traffic Department. It is also necessary to pass an eye test, which can be done on site. A fee must also be paid by card. This includes the cost of the eye test. On the next working day you should be able to collect it, and it is valid for five years. The vehicle entitlement will be the same as for your original licence, but you’ll have to get a separate licence if you want to drive HGVs and buses.

Tax

The very low rate of tax in Qatar is one of the major attractions of moving there, but there are still some tax charges and issues for expatriates to be aware of. Whilst life in Qatar is largely tax-free. Foreigners that live and work in Qatar 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 Qatar, 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.

Useful Links

Expat Woman in Qatar
Expat Arrivals Qatar
Banking in Qatar
How to get a working visa in Qatar
Healthcare in Qatar
Qatar taxes