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Travel Security Advice for Qatar

Qatar_National_Flag

qatar_mapQatar_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: 

Qatar is a constitutional monarchy governed by the ruling Al Thani family in consultation with a council of ministers, an appointed advisory council and an elected municipal council.  Islamic beliefs and tribal traditions provide the foundation of the country’s customs, laws and practices.  Located in the heart of the Arabian Gulf, Qatar is a dynamic, modernizing, rapidly developing country that is among the wealthiest in the world.  The capital is Doha.  Tourist facilities are available.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Qatar for additional information.



REGISTRATION: 

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Qatar are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State travel registration page, so that they can obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: 

Passports and visas are required.  U.S. citizens may obtain a single-entry tourist or business visa at Doha International Airport upon arrival.  Single-entry visas cost $28 and must be paid by credit card only.  Cash is not accepted.  Visas are valid for 30 days and may be extended for an additional 30 days for a $28 fee through the Airport Visas Section of the Immigration Department located next to Doha International Airport.  However, U.S.-citizen travelers will be able to clear Qatari immigration more quickly and be granted a longer stay in country by obtaining visas prior to arrival.  Former resident permit holders who return to Qatar for a short business or tourist trip may still obtain a visa on arrival at Doha International Airport.  To facilitate entry with Qatari Immigration, former resident permit holders should carry a “no objection letter” issued by their former sponsor. 

Travelers who are planning to arrive at another port of entry in Qatar, or travelers who previously held residency in Qatar but whose visa had been cancelled early or for whom a sponsor may have filed a complaint, should obtain a tourist or business visa in advance of their arrival from a Qatari embassy or consulate abroad or online at Qatar’s E-Government English language web site, http://portal.www.gov.qa/wps/portalTravelers should also note that the Qatari Government charges $55 for each day that an individual overstays a visa, up to a maximum amount of $3,300. 

For further information on visas, residence permits and entry requirements, please visit the Qatar’s E-Government English language web site, http://portal.www.gov.qa/wps/portal Travelers may also contact the Embassy of the State of Qatar (http://www.qatarembassy.net/) at 2555 M Street NW, Washington, DC   20037, telephone (202) 274-1600, fax (202) 237-0061.  They may also contact the Consulate General of the State of Qatar, 1990 Post Oak Blvd. Suite 810, Houston TX 77056, telephone (713) 355-8221, fax (713) 355-8184, send email inquiries to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 
Military personnel are subject to different entry/exit requirements and should refer to http://www.fcg.pentagon.mil/ for specific information pertaining to their travel requirements. Additional information may be obtained by calling either the Host Nation Coordination Cell of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at 011-974-551-0815 or the Office of Military Cooperation Qatar at 011-974-488-4299.

Note for Dual Nationals: 

Qatari law does not recognize dual nationality and requires that Qatari citizens only hold Qatari citizenship and enter and exit on a Qatari passport.  Qatari authorities have confiscated the passports of U.S. citizens who acquired Qatari citizenship through marriage to a Qatari national or by virtue of birth in the U.S.   In several cases, Qatari authorities informed U.S. citizens that their U.S. citizenship had been revoked and was no longer valid.  However, foreign governments have no authority to revoke the citizenship of a U.S. citizen.  If this occurs, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Doha immediately.  Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.



THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: 

Incidents of violence are rare in Qatar, although attacks against Western targets have occurred.  To provide for public security, a large police presence is deployed throughout the country.  American citizens in Qatar are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events and take appropriate steps to bolster their personal security at all times.  Americans are strongly encouraged to avoid labor or work camps, where unrest can occur due to local working conditions or labor grievances.

The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests worldwide, including the Middle East.  Both historical and recurring information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan strikes against Western targets; these attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics to include assassination, kidnapping, hijacking and bombing.  On March 19, 2005, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at a theater in Doha regularly frequented by westerners; a citizen of the United Kingdom was killed, and several other individuals were injured. 

Increased security at official facilities has led terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer, less fortified targets; the March 2005 theater attack in Doha was one such example.  Other locations of potential concern include any venue where U.S. citizens and other foreigners are known to congregate in large numbers such as public assemblies, sporting events, restaurants, residential areas, clubs, places of worship, schools, hotels, etc.  The Government of Qatar occasionally provides security for such locations and events, but to varying degrees.  In most instances, the Embassy cannot gauge the appropriateness of security for a given event prior to its commencement.  The Embassy strongly encourages American citizens to avoid large crowds and demonstrations whenever possible.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's, Bureau of Consular Affairs' website.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.



CRIME: 

The crime rate in Qatar is generally low.  A large police presence is apparent to travelers throughout the country.  Incidents of violence are rare but have occurred more frequently as Doha’s population and economic pressures on expatriate workers have increased substantially during the past few years.  Local and third-country-national young men have been known to verbally and physically harass unaccompanied, expatriate women.  Reports of petty theft have been growing, including ATM and credit card theft, purse snatching and pickpocketing.  Travelers are cautioned not to leave valuables such as cash, jewelry, and electronic items unsecured in hotel rooms or unattended in public places. 



VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy in Doha.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.  The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. 

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Qatar is 999.  The Qatari Police can be contacted for emergency assistance by dialing 999 from any telephone in Qatar.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Criminal offenses are punished according to Qatari laws, which in some cases are based on Islamic law and sometimes more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Qatari laws, even unknowingly, may be arrested, imprisoned, deported, or subject to a ban from departing Qatar.  Travel bans are not lifted until both parties resolve a dispute and the case is abandoned or, if not, until the matter is resolved by a court, which may require months to process the case.  Qatari law enforcement authorities have detained potential witnesses or relatives without charges or access to legal counsel during the investigation of a crime.

The U.S. Embassy in Doha cautions American citizens that Qatari police have arrested American citizens suspected of or witness to a crime, including traffic accidents involving injuries to pedestrians or the occupants of other cars, traffic arguments, slander, and a variety of lesser offenses.  Once an arrest has been made, the Qatari Police have no independent authority to grant a release, an authority reserved solely for Qatar’s Public Prosecution and Courts.  As a result, arrested Americans, regardless of the charges, often spend one or two nights in jail awaiting a hearing with Qatar’s Public Prosecution or the appropriate court.

Qatari law enforcement authorities do not routinely notify the U.S. Embassy in Doha of a U.S. citizen’s arrest and, for more serious crimes, may not allow a U.S. Embassy official to visit an arrested U.S. citizen until the initial interrogation is completed.  Upon arrest, U.S. citizens should ask to speak to the U.S. Embassy immediately, and if not allowed, request that a friend or family member notify the U.S. Embassy through the contact information below.

Incidents involving insults or obscene language/gestures often result in arrest, overnight imprisonment and/or fines whether the incident occurs between private parties or involves officers of the law.  Insulting someone in public is considered a punishable offense.  Drunk driving, public intoxication and other alcohol-related offenses are treated with severity and will result in arrest, heavy fines, imprisonment, or expulsion from the country.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Qatar are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Homosexual activity is considered to be a criminal offense, and those convicted may be sentenced to lashings, a prison sentence, and/or deportation.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Qatari customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning importation into Qatar of items such as alcohol, narcotics, pork products, weapons or weapons-related material (hand-cuffs, knives, laser sights, laser pointers, etc), or anything deemed pornographic or sexually-related by Qatari authorities.  While importation of religious material for personal use is acceptable, importation of religious material for the purpose of proselytizing is not.  It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the State of Qatar in Washington, DC, or the Consulate General of the State of Qatar in Houston for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Please see our Customs Information.

Islam and tribal traditions provide the foundation of Qatar’s customs, laws and practices.  Foreign visitors are expected to remain sensitive to Islamic beliefs and practices and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter tops and shorts.  Western bathing attire is worn only at hotel pools and private beaches.

Religion and religious practice are quite sensitive issues in Qatar.  Therefore, discussing religious issues, or answering questions about a religion, should be treated with care and sensitivity.  Proselytizing is illegal in Qatar.  Attempting to convert a member of one religion to another, “sharing one’s faith” with someone of a different faith, and similar practices can be deemed violations of Qatari law, with deportation or even prison the consequence.   Accordingly, charitable activities, both religious and non-religious, must be approved in advance by the Qatar Authority for Charitable Activities (QACA).  Further information on QACA, including instructions on how to contact QACA, is at http://www.qaca.gov.qa/.

Pets entering Qatar require an import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture.  Cats with proper documentation are allowed to enter with no difficulty, but some breeds of dogs, especially large dogs and breeds considered aggressive, are not admitted.  Application forms for import permits may be obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture through a sponsoring employer.  A copy of the pet's health certificate and vaccination record must be submitted with the application.

All U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available.  In the past, employers routinely held the passports of employees during their stay in Qatar.  A new law passed in 2009 formally forbade this practice, and all employers are prohibited from holding employees’ passports, except for visa and immigration processing.  Residents carry a Qatari Identification Card (Iqama) for identification in place of a passport.  Foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, may not leave Qatar without permission in the form of exit visas obtained by their employer/sponsor.
Department of Defense personnel and contractors should refer to the DOD Foreign Clearance Guide,
http://www.fcg.pentagon.mil/The U.S. Embassy in Doha cannot assist U.S. citizens in Qatar to obtain third-country visas for unofficial travel.

Business and Employment Contracts: 

The written Arabic text of a contract governs employment and business arrangements under Qatari law.  Before signing a contract, U.S. citizens and companies should obtain an independent English translation of the original Arabic to ensure a full understanding of the contract's terms, limits, and agreements.  No U.S. citizen should work in Qatar or make a business arrangement without having seen and understood the full written contract.  Verbal assurances or side letters are not binding in Qatar. 

In the event of a contract or employment dispute, Qatari authorities refer to the Arabic language of a contract.  Since a Qatari sponsor controls the issuance of exit visas, U.S. citizens will be unable to leave Qatar without their sponsor’s approval in the event of an emergency or employment or business dispute.  Any U.S. citizen who breaks an employment or business contract may have to pay substantial penalties before being allowed to depart Qatar.  Qatari law favors employers over employees, and Qatari sponsors have substantial leverage in any negotiations and may block the departure of the employee or bar future employment in Qatar.  If a sponsor files a complaint against an employee who departed Qatar, the employee may be barred from returning to Qatar, even on a subsequent tourist or airport visa.

Transferring employment in Qatar requires the permission of the previous employer, which is discretionary, and is subject to approval by the Ministry of the Interior.  The Ministry of the Interior has denied employment transfers in the past, including ordering U.S. citizens deported and barred from re-entry to Qatar for two years.  The U.S. Embassy has no standing in Qatar’s courts, cannot sponsor visas, and cannot mediate labor or business disputes.  U.S. consular officers can provide lists of local attorneys to help U.S. citizens settle disputes, but ultimate responsibility for the resolution of disputes through Qatar’s legal system lies with the parties involved.

To obtain a residence permit in Qatar, the Government of Qatar usually requires foreign citizens to provide a police clearance certificate and authentication of educational degrees and occupational certifications from their home countries.  Prospective residents can obtain a U.S. police clearance certificate in two ways: through a local or state law enforcement agency or through the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).  In both cases, the clearance will be run through the National Crime Information Center, which contains all federal, state and local criminal records. Please visit our web site http://qatar.usembassy.gov/police-clearances.html for more information. For authentication of educational degrees and occupational certifications, please visit the U.S. Embassy’s Authentication website, http://qatar.usembassy.gov/document_authentications.htmlThis process requires several weeks, and the U.S. Embassy in Doha strongly recommends that prospective residents obtain a U.S. police clearance and any document authentications before they arrive in Qatar. 

Residents have been barred from exiting Qatar while they have a current loan on account with a Qatari bank.  Qatari banks have placed holds on residents’ accounts to ensure that all debts have been paid before residents may leave Qatar.  To approve an exit visa, sponsors and Qatari immigration may also check with an employee’s Qatari bank to verify any outstanding loans. 

For more information on business opportunities and practices in Qatar, please visit the Foreign Commercial Service’s Country Commercial Guide for Qatar at http://www.buyusa.gov/qatar.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Good modern medical care and medicines are available in Doha, although only basic or no medical care may be available in Qatar’s smaller cities or outlying areas.  Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars.  Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services.  Information about the Qatari national healthcare system is available at http://www.hmc.org.qa/.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Qatar does not allow individuals with HIV/AIDS to enter the country.  Medical exams are required for all long-term visitors and residents.  Individuals who have HIV/AIDS may be subject to deportation.  Please verify this information with the Embassy of Qatar at http://www.qatarembassy.net/ before traveling.  



MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad. Important questions are whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Qatar is provided for general reference only and is subject to change at any time.  Current traffic regulations may be obtained through the Ministry of Interior’s Traffic Police.

Short-term visitors should obtain a valid International Driving Permit prior to arrival and should not drive in Qatar on a U.S. driver’s license.  New and prospective residents should obtain a permanent Qatari Driving License immediately after arrival.  To obtain a Qatari driver’s license, American citizens will need a valid U.S. driver’s license.  American citizens should renew their driver’s license before leaving the U.S.  Qatari authorities will not accept learner’s permits and temporary permits as valid driver’s licenses.  Short-term visitors and business travelers can also obtain a Temporary Qatari Driving License by presenting their U.S. driver’s license at any branch of Qatar’s Traffic Police.  Once an American citizen holds a valid Qatari residence permit, they are no longer permitted to drive in Qatar with an International Driving Permit or a Temporary Qatar Driving License. 

Traffic accidents are among Qatar’s leading causes of death.  Safety regulations in Qatar are improving, thanks to a more stringent traffic law adopted in October 2007 and a country-wide traffic safety campaign.  However, informal rules of the road and the combination of local and third-country-national driving customs often prove frustrating for first-time drivers in Qatar.  The combination of Qatar’s extensive use of roundabouts, many road construction projects and the high speeds at which drivers may travel can prove challenging.  The rate of automobile accidents due to driver error and excessive speed is declining but remains higher than in the United States.  In rural areas, poor lighting, wandering camels and un-shouldered roads present other hazards.

Despite the aggressive driving on Qatar’s roads, drivers should avoid altercations or arguments over traffic incidents, particularly with Qatari citizens who, if insulted, have filed complaints with local police that resulted in the arrest and overnight detention of U.S. citizens.  Drivers can be held liable for injuries to other persons involved in a vehicular accident, and local police have detained U.S. citizens overnight until the extent of the person’s injuries were known.  Due to its conservative Islamic norms, Qatar maintains a zero-tolerance policy against drinking and driving.  Qatar’s Traffic Police have arrested Americans for driving after consuming amounts of alcohol at even smaller levels normally accepted in the U.S.

Any motor vehicle over five years old cannot be imported into the country.  For specific information concerning Qatari driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact either the Embassy of the State of Qatar in Washington, DC or the Consulate General of the State of Qatar in Houston, Texas.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Qatar’s air carrier operations.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA web site at http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/iasa.



CHILDREN'S ISSUES: 

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.



EMBASSY LOCATION:

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State list of embassies and consulates.

The U.S. Embassy is located in the Al-Luqta District on 22nd February Street, PO Box 2399, Doha; phone (974) 496-6000, extension 0 or 6500.  For after-hours emergencies, U.S. citizens may call (974) 496-6000, extension 0 or 6600, to reach the duty officer.  On the Internet, you may reach the Embassy web site at http://qatar.usembassy.gov for additional information and operating hours.  The embassy observes a Sunday through Thursday workweek.  Government offices and most businesses in Qatar also observe a Sunday through Thursday workweek.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Qatar dated November 10, 2008, to update the sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Note for Dual Nationals, Threats to Safety and Security, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, Business and Employment Contracts, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

 


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Qatar HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).............

Regards

The SW Team......

 

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