Qatar is an interesting choice for expats seeking employment and despite recent political difficulties there are a number of opportunities to be found in construction, education, finance, tourism and other sectors. The Qatari government prioritizes local citizens, so your prospective employer will have to show that there is no qualified Qatari national who could undertake the job, but you should still find that you have a number of options in this Gulf state.
You have the option of coming to Qatar on an Entry Visa and looking for work when you are there, or you can secure an offer of employment before you come out to the region. In this case you will need a work permit before applying for a Qatar Residence Permit. Your employer will act as your sponsor and the employment of foreign workers at your company must be approved by the Labor Office.
Your employer will need to go through the bureaucratic process of gaining permission to hire overseas personnel first, therefore, and once this is done, you/your employer must supply the following documentation:
• a copy of your passport
• a completed application form in Arabic
• a copy of the Commercial Registration of the business
• the immigration card of the business
• a copy of a valid employment contract between the sponsoring company and yourself, in Arabic and English
• medical certificate from a government-approved hospital
• 4 x passport-size photos
• your biometric data (fingerprints)
There will also be a fee, currently QAR 200 (US$55). Your work permit must start within 7 days of your arrival in Qatar.
You can also bring your dependents with you, but will need a different kind of visa: a Family Sponsorship visa.
You will also need to apply for a residence permit: again, your employer should help you with this, but you will need to submit much the same personal information as above.
In addition, when you leave the country, you may have apply for an exit visa at the Ministry of the Interior, which must be approved by your employer. This is valid for 7 days only and may be a multiple-exit visa. This costs about QAR10 (US$2-3) for single exit and QAR 500 (US$137) for multiple exits. This system, however, is due to be overhauled in 2020 and most exit visas are due to be scrapped, although you may still have to ask permission from your employer to leave Qatar.
English teachers are still required and you should have options in private language schools. You will be at a greater advantage if you have a university degree as well as a TEFL qualification. Teachers of other subjects are also required: for example, early years teaching personnel.
Construction workers are also required as the country continues to develop its infrastructure. Engineering is a big industry here and skills shortages are reported in this sector across the Gulf, including Qatar.
With the world’s third-largest gas reserve as well as oil, gas and petroleum constitute a major part of Qatar’s GDP. If you have a background in this sector, therefore, you may wish to explore the possibility of working in Qatar.
Project and sales managers are also in demand.
It is a good idea to learn basic Modern Standard Arabic.
Official working hours are 7.30 a.m. – 3.30 p.m. and employees work 48 hours per week. The working week in Qatar runs from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday/Saturday off. Friday (a day of prayer) is the official rest day. Hours will be shorter during Ramadan but may only apply to Islamic staff.
Annual leave depends on the length of time you have been working for your employer: if you have been employed for under 5 years, you will be entitled to 3 weeks off per year, and if over 5 years, you will be eligible to take 4 weeks. You will also be entitled to 10 other days off, some of these for Eid El-Fitr and some for Eid El-Adha, plus Independence Day and 3 additional days specified by your employer. Islamic employees may also be eligible for Pilgrimage Leave.
If you have worked for your company for a year and become pregnant, you will be entitled to 50 days of paid maternity leave on full salary, 15 days before delivery and 35 days following it.
You will also be entitled to paid sick leave, on the basis of certain conditions.
The Qatari minimum wage is currently set at QAR 750 per month (US$206). An average expat salary is estimated to be in the region of QAR 16,794 (US$4612). There are significant tax advantages to working here, ensuring that your salary is worth more. You may also be entitled to an indemnity at the end of your contract.
Legally, under the Family Sponsorship visa your spouse will be able to apply for work without needing to apply for another work permit. The employer of the sponsored worker will extend sponsorship to your spouse, as long as requirements from the Qatar government are met. Note that you may have to prove that you are legally married, so you will need a copy of your marriage certificate.
You are welcome to make speculative applications to companies in Qatar and to approach employers directly.
There are a number of online job boards and recruitment agencies pertaining to the Gulf and to Qatar specifically. Otherwise personal networking may be of use.
It is recommended that you use a slightly longer CV for Qatar than a single page resume.
Qatar still does not have extensive anti-discrimination legislation and you may find that you are discriminated against if you are female, for example, or if you are a member of the LGBT community.
You may need to have your qualifications apostilled and it might be a good plan to get anything salient translated into Arabic unless you are applying to an international company.
Qatar is an increasingly popular tourist destination, with attractions such as the futuristic capital of Doha. It is an interesting choice for expats seeking employment and, despite recent political difficulties, there are a number of opportunities available in construction, education, finance, tourism and other sectors. Whether or not you need a visa will depend on factors such as your nationality, the length of your stay, and your reasons for travel. Read on to learn more about your options.
The visa regulations for Qatar have changed relatively recently, and it is now easier to travel into the country.
If you a UK national, you do not require a visa to enter Qatar. You can obtain a visa waiver upon arrival, and this will be valid for 180 days from the date it’s issued. It will entitle you to spend up to 30 days in Qatar, during either a single trip or on multiple trips, and may be extended for a further 30 days. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date you enter Qatar.
Similarly, if you are an Australian, Canadian or US national, you will not need an entry visa to travel to Qatar, and are allowed multiple stays up to 30 days within a time period of 30 days. A multi-entry waiver will be issued free of charge at your port of entry, which for most travellers is Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH), once you have presented your passport, which must be valid for at least six months, and a confirmed onward or return ticket.
Some EU nationals are able to remain in Qatar for 180 days visa-free.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) residents who hold positions in approved professions, along with those accompanying them, can obtain a GCC resident visit visa on arrival in Qatar. You will need a GCC residence permit and a passport, with validity of at least six months. The visa will be valid for one month and can be extended for another three months if required. You will need to hold a return ticket.
Although citizens of many countries can enter Qatar freely, without an entry visa, it is difficult to obtain citizenship / permanent residency in Qatar. For example, you will need to have resided in Qatar for a minimum of 20 consecutive years if you were born outside of Qatar, or 10 years if you were born inside Qatar, to do so. In saying this, there are some long-stay options available, including employment visas (described below).
A 30-day visa costs $68, and a 96-hour visa costs $44.
Visa processing usually takes from four to 15 working days.
You can either go to Qatar and look for work once you are there, or secure an offer of employment before you travel. In this case, you will need a work permit before you apply for a Qatar residence permit. Your employer will act as your sponsor, and the employment of foreign workers at your company must be approved by the Labour Office.
This means that your employer will need to go through the bureaucratic process of gaining permission to hire overseas personnel. Once this is done, you / your employer must supply the following documentation:
• A copy of your passport
• A completed application form in Arabic
• A copy of the Commercial Registration of the business
• The immigration card of the business
• A copy of a valid employment contract between the sponsoring company and yourself, in Arabic and English
• A medical certificate from a government-approved hospital
• Four passport-size photos
• Your biometric data (fingerprints)
There will also be a fee, which is currently QAR 200 (US$55). Your work permit must start within seven days of your arrival in Qatar.
To bring your dependants with you to Qatar, you will need a different kind of visa: the family sponsorship visa.
You will also need to apply for a residence permit. Again, your employer should help you with this, but you will need to submit much the same personal information as above.
In addition, when you leave the country, you must apply for an exit visa at the Ministry of the Interior, which must be approved by your employer. This is valid for seven days only, and costs about QAR10 (US$2-3) if it is for a single exit and QAR 500 (US$137) if it is for multiple exits. This system, however, is due to be overhauled in 2020, and most exit visas are due to be scrapped. Despite this, you may still have to ask permission from your employer to leave Qatar.
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
Compare quotes from leading international health insurance providers
Although Qatar has been slowly opening up parts of the property market to foreigners, many expatriates still prefer to rent. Around three-quarters of the population (many of whom are expats) rent their villas and apartments. Around 60% of all properties in Qatar are for residential renting purposes.
Renting in Qatar is not cheap. According to real estate reports conducted by Colliers International, the majority of expats living in Qatar spend around a third of their salary on rent. However, some would argue that this is offset somewhat by the low cost of utilities. The rentals available are generally serviced apartments or condominiums, as well as villas in gated communities.
The majority of rental contracts are done on an annual basis in Qatar. The Qatari renting process is quick and efficient, so long as you have all the required paperwork and documentation in place. You will need:
• Your residence permit/visa
• Qatari identification card
• Your employer’s/sponsor’s ID card or trade license
• Proof of earnings, such as your employment contract or salary slip
• A chequebook with at least 13 blank cheques
The reason you will require a chequebook with at least 13 blank cheques is that most rented accommodation in Qatar requires you to give post-dated cheques for the duration of your contract before you move in. This is a common practice so do not be alarmed.
The most popular way to find a rental in Qatar is through licensed agents. Also, local publications and newspapers will likely have a property section, but this will not be much use if you cannot read Arabic!
There are also websites that you can use, such as:
Doha is the main residence for the majority of the Qatari population. Popular areas of Doha to live in include Old Airport, Al Saad, West Bay, and Al Dafna.
According to data statistic website Numbeo, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom centrally located apartment in the city is around QR 5,632.87 (Qatari Riyal). This is equivalent to approximately £1,250.66 (GBP) or $1,547.07 (USD). An apartment of similar size further outside of the city centre costs roughly QR 3,665.71 (£813.89 or $1,006.79).
It is worth bearing in mind that flat shares are illegal in Qatar without express permission from the landlord. If you are offered a room to rent in someone’s apartment and they cannot show you proof of permission from the landlord, it would be wise to refuse the room and continue your search. In addition, same-sex couples are illegal, and heterosexual couples who are unmarried cannot live together.
Foreigners of any nationality are permitted to obtain freehold ownership in specific areas of Doha, such as The Pearl (an artificial island off the city of Doha), West Bay Lagoon, and Al Khor. Foreigners who buy in any of these areas often qualify automatically for resident status. This resident status can be extended to the owner’s immediate family.
Many properties in Qatar are bought before they are completed – they are often referred to as “off-plan”. These off-plan properties are purchased directly from the developers. When purchasing a property of this type, typically you will need to pay a deposit upon signing the sale contract. You will then make staggered payments in increments throughout the development. Full payment is not usually completed until the property is finished.
For example, if you are looking to purchase an off-plan property in The Pearl, you will pay a deposit of around 20% of the purchase price. The remaining balance of the property is calculated at 75% of the purchase price and is payable in quarterly instalments, with the final 5% paid on completion.
Usually this process will begin with you applying for and then being issued with a No Objection Certificate (NOC) by the developer. Once the NOC has been issued, you are able to go to the office of the Qatar Land Department to officially transfer ownership. The Qatar Land Department will insist that you pay the purchase price with a manager’s cheque, made payable to the seller on the date of transfer.
Once all the formalities are completed, a new title deed will be issued in your name. If you are purchasing through a bank, then there may be an additional step in this process. The transfer fee is levied at 0.25% of the property value. Authentication documents will also be required (at a fee).
Finding properties to buy is a similar process to finding rentals, which is described above. Look for local adverts, use a reputable property agent, or look on property websites, such as Property Finder, The Pearl Gates, Saakin, and Just Property.
Expats can apply for and obtain Qatari mortgages, but the mortgage requirements tend to be quite stringent. Some of the banks in Qatar that offer mortgages to foreigners include HSBC, Doha Bank, and The Commercial Bank of Qatar.
Qatar encourages foreign property purchases in some locations more than in others, which can lead to more preferential rates through bank incentives. For example, if you were to get a mortgage for a property in The Pearl, you may be eligible for better terms, such as lower interest rates.
Mortgages for non-national residents can cover up to 80% of the value of the property price. You will also need to register your mortgage with the Land Registration Department.
Banks will likely request the following documentation, so make sure you have it to hand:
• Property valuation report
• Proof of income
• Valid passport
• Valid residence permit
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
Compare quotes from leading international moving companies
QUICK LINK: Qatar health insurance
Healthcare in Qatar is considered to be of a fairly high standard. All Qatari citizens are covered by a national health insurance scheme, while expatriates have to either receive health insurance from their employers, or in the case of the self-employed expats, they have to purchase insurance.
Qatars healthcare spending is one of highest in the whole Middle East, with $4.7 billion invested in healthcare. This investment represents a $2.1 billion increase compared to 2010. The premier healthcare provider in the country is the Hamad Medical Corporation which was established by the government as a non-profit healthcare group. HMC has a network of hospitals, ambulance services, and a home healthcare service, all of which are accredited by the Joint Commission.
The government has established the National Health Insurance Company which manages and operates the national health insurance scheme, called Seha. Since 2013 it has covered Qatari females aged 12 and above for gynecology, obstetrics, maternity and related women’s health conditions, and since 2014, it has provided comprehensive insurance coverage to Qatari nationals for basic health care needs. Those basic needs include almost all medical, dental and optical treatments except cosmetic surgery, alternative medicine and over-the-counter drugs.
In 2010, spending on healthcare accounted for 2.2% of the countrys GDP, which was the highest in the Middle East region. In 2006, there were 23.12 physicians and 61.81 nurses per 10,000 inhabitants. The life expectancy at birth was 82.08 years in 2014, or 83.27 years for males and 77.95 years for females, which was also the highest life expectancy in the Middle East. It is important to know that Qatar has a low infant mortality rate of 7 in 100,000.
In 2006, there were a total of 25 beds per 10,000 people, and 27.6 doctors and 73.8 nurses per 10,000 people. Just five years later, in 2011, the number of beds decreased to 12 per 10,000 people, while the number of doctors increased to 28 per 10,000 people. As this country has one of the lowest proportions of hospital beds in the region, the availability of physicians is the highest in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).
Qatari healthcare at a glance
As a small and wealthy country, Qatar is able to guarantee its citizens free and equal access to healthcare through central funding. On the other hand, alternate mechanisms of health care funding are being investigated. Private healthcare is growing because of the high demand for higher quality services. Healthcare costs can be still considered fairly cost-effective when compared to its regional neighbours with highly developed private health care systems.
Since the country opened its first hospital half a century ago, many changes and improvements have been introduced to the healthcare arena. The healthcare system is now available to all people in Qatar, whether they are nationals, expatriates or tourists. Qatar also has a public health service that provides free or highly subsidised healthcare.
The only exception is when it comes to highly specialised services. Although the healthcare system has improved over the years, it still has some problems. Although healthcare is free or highly subsidised, expatriates and tourists can expect to pay some of their medical costs. Because of this, it is highly advised that expats and tourists obtain international health insurance.
Preventative healthcare is mostly concentrated on the fight against contagious diseases. Qatar has a comprehensive list of vaccinations for newborns. It was one of the first countries in the region to add an anti influenza vaccine to this list. Apart from contagious diseases, the government set up a sector for non-communicable conditions such as tobacco addiction, accidents, and a unit dedicated only to nutrition.
In general, Qatar has a centrally funded public healthcare system. This means that all citizens have the right to free and equal access to health services, which are financed from public funds. Healthcare is financed through directly allocated central funding from the public budget. The government is currently actively pursuing an alternate system of healthcare financing through health insurance but this is not yet in place.
All expatriates can purchase health cards in this country. The cost is still quite low and it doesnt meet the actual cost of health care services in Qatar. Healthcare costs in the private sector are mostly direct payments with the exception of some banks, private companies and the oil sector which subsidise their employees’ medical coverage in the private sector. In this sector, doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Emergency ambulance services in Qatar are centralized through the 999 Emergency system. Calls can be made in both English and Arabic. Emergency cases are usually redirected to the public hospital system. Response times are very efficient across the country, especially in the capital city Doha. Helicopter emergency rescue services are also available across the country. Qatar Red Crescent operates its own private patient transportation services.
The NHA, following international standards, controls the manufacturing and marketing of all drugs. There are numerous pharmacies in Qatar, and some of them have late opening hours.
Expats, tourists and all visitors who are not used to very high summertime temperatures can be susceptible to sunstroke and sunburn as temperatures can often reach 50°C during the day in the summer months. Dehydration is something that everyone should be aware of. Respiratory problems arise due to the heavy amount of dust and sand in the air.
Expat health insurance
It is good to know that cheap insurance may not represent the best value for money in cases where expats need to make a claim. It is possible that expats may require specialist expatriate insurance cover abroad for some services.
All useful information about the healthcare and healthcare insurance can be found on the official website of the Qatari Ministry of Public Health
One thing that is very important to visitors and expatriates in Qatar is the banking system. There are numerous Qatari and international banks that operate in the country. Qatar Central Bank is the country’s main banking regulator.
Opening a bank account
The majority of banks in Qatar require the following documentation to open a new bank account:
– A copy of the account holder’s residence permit
– A passport copy
– A letter from the sponsor or employer confirming the account holder’s status and salary
– At least two passport photographs
– Proof of address (letter or utility bill)
All the required documentation needs to be taken to the bank branch, where the application forms are filled out in order for the account to be processed. Cards and cheque books are generally available for collection or posting several working days later. Non-residents are not able to open bank accounts in Qatar.
There are two main types of accounts that can be obtained in Qatari banks: current accounts and savings accounts. Some banks require the holder to have a minimum deposit in the account all the time, while others may require that a monthly salary is paid directly into the account. Cheque books and debit cards are usually issued, and services such as direct debit and standing order transfers are available to all users. Online and telephone banking is an option in many banks as well. Credit cards are directly offered with some accounts, but there are fees that may be applied with some other services. Cheques and statements can be issued in English language if previously requested.
Banks in this country generally open between 07:30 and 13:00, form Sunday to Thursday. Some bigger branches may re-open in the afternoon and on Saturdays. Most of the banks in Qatar close on Fridays.
ATMs, cash and card payments
ATMs are widely available around the capital Doha, debit cards are accepted in most major retailers, while some petrol stations and smaller traders are based on cash-only transactions.
Issues for expatriates
It is a serious offence in Qatar to issue a cheque that bounces. By doing so, people can face imprisonment and a deportation in some cases. That is why it is important to ensure there are sufficient funds in the account to honour any cheques written. It is also important to know that cheques that are not crossed with “A/C Payee Only” along the two diagonal lines can be cashed by any user.
When buying or renting a car, there was a practice of issuing post-dated cheques, but this was made illegal in 2010. Transferring money from Qatari accounts to an account in the home country is possible, but many banks charge fees for these services.
Exchange rates can vary as well. It is important to be aware of any taxation liabilities in the home country when transferring large deposits internationally. An alternative to opening a Doha-based account is to use an international account which is set up before arriving in Qatar, or an offshore account for transferring savings without incurring tax in other countries.
Pensions in Qatar
Regardless of the age or stage of life, each future pensioner must have a financial plan in place in order to retire. Those who live abroad need to understand how the local laws affect their assets within the country of residence and overseas.
QROPS stands for “Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme”. It is a set of rules the UK’s HMRC has put in place for foreign destination schemes to receive authorised UK pension transfers. Offshore schemes which are not QROPS may be subject to a 55 percent unauthorised payment charge irrespective of which jurisdiction they are transferred to.
QROPS is good for anyone who has contributed to a UK pension but now lives overseas or plans to leave the UK in the near future. While a QROPS will comply with HMRCs various requirements, its members may benefit from certain features that are not available to UK pension holders.
The good thing about QROPS is that instead of moving the pension to the country where the holder lives, they can move it to a third jurisdiction that is chosen for its beneficial rules. The most common jurisdictions that expats choose are Gibraltar and Malta, and the Isle of Man in some cases.
Once the suitable jurisdiction has been chosen, UK Inheritance Tax no longer applies. QROPS members can leave their full pensions to their families or other beneficiaries upon their death.
If a pension holder had begun to draw an income from a UK pension, HMRC may charge up to 55 percent of the pension pot upon pensioners death. It is slightly different with QROPS, where the pension holders may pass more than double the amount of money to their heirs.
In addition, QROPS holders have much more flexibility when it comes to taking the amount of income. If only a little income is needed, holders can choose to take benefits later and at a lower amount. However, if more income is needed, the maximum amount per year can be around 20 percent higher than in the UK. Once the income is taken, it is paid gross, which leaves the onus on the recipient to pay any applicable income tax in their country of residence.
QROPS allows UK pension holders to consolidate a number of UK pensions and have them invested with tax-free plans that are available offshore without restriction. This ability to see untaxed growth from a properly structured portfolio is one benefit of taking out a QROPS. It is important to know that QROPS are relevant everywhere. As long as the pension was moved and the holder has been outside the UK for at least five years, returning to the UK permanently is not an issue. While investments are tax-free in Qatar, QROPS is still advantageous to expatriates considering relocating to a tax-heavy jurisdiction in the future.
QROPS jurisdictions are assessed by HMRC according to their various Double Taxation Treaties, applicable tax rates, regulatory rigour and transparency. These are not relevant to Qatar residents since Qatar is a largely tax-free jurisdiction.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
Compare quotes from leading foreign exchange currency brokers
The Gulf State of Qatar is still a relatively popular choice for expats seeking employment and despite some recent political difficulties there are a number of opportunities to be found in construction, education, finance, tourism and other sectors. If you are coming out here to work, however, you might be wondering how easy it will be for you to communicate in English. Will you have to learn the local language, and what is spoken in Qatar? We will look at some of your options below.
The official language of Qatar is Arabic: the dialect of Qatari Arabic is spoken here, but due to the large number of expats from elsewhere, you will hear many other languages too, including:
Qatari Arabic itself is split into two main dialects: standard Arabic (Al Fus-Ha, sometimes referred to as Fusha, Al Arabiya or High Arabic) and native Gulf Arabic (Khaliji / Qatari divided into two other tongues, South and North Qatari). These are mutually intelligible and are spoken in regions other than Qatar itself.
English is the second most widely spoken language here, due to historical associations: Qatar is a former British colony. Although English does not have official status, it is very widely spoken and is taught in Qatari schools. It is commonly used in the workplace as a lingua franca, since Qatar is such a multinational environment commercially.
However, it is both polite and practical to master some basic phrases, such as those for:
• meet and greet
• days of the week/months of the year
• shopping and food-related vocabulary, including eating out
• some basic medical vocabulary (e.g. asking for a doctor’s appointment)
• some basic banking vocabulary (e.g. opening a bank account)
You may have an interest in Standard Arabic, which is taught in the country, but this is perhaps more useful if you are going to be reading a lot of communications in Arabic. It is the language learned by scholars who want to read literary and religious texts, although it is widely spoken and may also be of use if you are travelling throughout the Gulf generally and not just in Qatar itself. However, if you are going to be based in Qatar and want to speak a language that is readily understood on the street, then Qatari Arabic is probably more suitable. Remember that you will need to master the Arabic alphabet first.
It is advised that you take a good phrasebook with you and do not rely on digital methods such as translation apps on your phone: more rural or remote areas may not have total wifi or mobile signal coverage.
You will find a number of options if you are interested in learning Arabic in the country. Your first port of call might be the The Arabic for Non-Native Speakers center at Qatar University, which offers Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). The Center uses a communicative language approach, including the use of multimedia with a focus on the varieties of the language used throughout the Arabic speaking world, especially in print and electronic media, and in educational and academic settings, as well as other aspects of daily life. They offer a number of courses designed to develop all skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing, media Arabic, modern literature, and classical literature). The institution also organizes monthly excursions and cultural activities around Doha where Arabic is used. Trips to museums, the Al Jazeera television studios, and recreation sites are an integral part of the course. The university’s website is in English.
The Qatar Islamic Cultural Center also offer Arabic classes. There are a number of private language schools. Note that Qatar is a conservative Islamic state, so if you are in the country as a couple and interested in learning the language, classes tend to be taught at different times, and separately, for men and women, so you may not be able to attend the same class. Private tuition could get around this, however, if it is an issue.
English teachers are still required in Qatar and you should have options in private language schools. Demand is not as high as it is in some Gulf states, due to the prevalence of English as a spoken language. However, the presence of a large number of expats from other non-English speaking countries ensures that there is still a market for English language teaching. You will be at a greater advantage if you have a university degree as well as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or business and finance.
However, you will need a work permit before applying for a Qatar Residence Permit. Your employer will act as your sponsor and the employment of foreign workers at your company must be approved by the Labor Office.
Salaries are competitive, ranging from US$1600 – 4000 per month. You are most likely to find work in Doha, in a private or vocational school or an international school. Expat teachers report that you are unlikely to find work outside these institutions (for example, at university level) unless you are also a fluent speaker of Arabic.
The official language of Qatar is Arabic: the dialect of Qatari Arabic is spoken here. However, English is the second most widely spoken language in the country, due to historical associations: Qatar is a former British colony. Although English does not have official status, it is very widely spoken and is taught in Qatari schools.
The OECD PISA tests in 2018 demonstrated, however, that Qatari students in the public sector underperformed across the range of skills tested (reading, mathematics etc) in comparison to other countries. However, it has performed better in other ranking systems and the standard of education here is generally considered to be good, although a recently local university report states that after one and half decades of reform, the results indicate that Qatar is still a long way from meeting its national curriculum standards and also far from providing quality education across the board, particularly in STEM subjects.
Nonetheless, Qatari education has undergone substantial changes in the last 30 years, becoming increasingly secular and modernised. Public spending has been the driving force behind much of this, resulting from oil revenues, but expenditure may now slow down given the economic downturn.
Public education here is compulsory and free. There are 207 public schools plus 68 kindergartens, serving more than 124,600 Qatari and non-Qatari students. An integrated curriculum is taught, including mathematics and science, Arabic and English languages, Qatari history and Islamic education.
Education lasts for 12 years in public school, divided into several stages:
• pre-school or kindergarten
• primary (duration of 6 years)
• preparatory stage (7th grade to 9th grade)
• secondary stage (10th grade to 12th grade)
The Qatari educational authorities say that an integrated approach is taken in the early years of schooling. The curriculum, they note, moves away from the traditional methods of early education relying on textbooks and study materials, and focuses instead on forming the personality of children as active, creative participants who depend on themselves and have the ability to criticize and initiate.
At secondary school level, students can choose a general education or enrol in specialized schools with a range of options such as science and technology and banking. Specialized schools include Qatar Technical School, Qatar Banking Studies and Business Administration Studies School for Boys, Religious Institute Preparatory Secondary School for Boys, Qatar Banking Studies & Business, Administration School for Girls and Qatar School of Science and Technology for Boys.
The workforce in Qatar mainly consists of expats, and many choose to enrol their children in private schools, partly because the quality of education is generally held to be better.
Private schools are licensed by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and are regarded as an alternative to the K-12 public schools. There are currently more than 332 private schools which teach in the region of 211,000 students. Private schools offer a range of curricula, philosophies, and activities but are required by the Ministry to teach Arabic, Islamic studies and Qatari history.
Once a private school has been licensed, the Ministry will monitor it to ensure that it is complying with the academic terms of its license and that their educational plans are met. As above, they also regulate the delivery of curricula and teaching methods.
You will find a range of international schools such as the American, British, French, and German schools, community schools serving different nationalities, and Qatari schools such as the Qatar Academia Arabic schools. The curriculum will vary depending on the school. Some schools offer the International Baccalaureate degree and others use the British curriculum, to name but two.
For example, the Sherborne School Qatar is affiliated to the British boys’ boarding school of the same name, a joint venture between Sherborne School and Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Thani (a result of members of the Qatari Royal family having attended the British school), and a founding member of the Ministry of Education Outstanding Schools Initiative. It offers a British national curriculum, leading up to IGCSE, AS and A Level. Fees range from US$9K -18K per annum.
Similarly the Guildford Grammar School Qatar is also based on an English equivalent. Fees range from US$12K – 15K.
The Alpha Cambridge school also follows a UK curriculum and, like most private schools in this small country, is based in Dohar. You will need to contact the school for its latest fees.
The Newton British Academy Al Dafna also teaches towards UK-based exams. Its fees range from US$6K-11K per annum.
The American School of Doha offers Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programs. Fees per annum range from US$9K – 20K.
The ACS International School Dohar also offers the IB Primary Years Programme (IBPYP), the IB Middle Year Programme (IBMYP) and the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP). In Grades 11 and 12 students can also choose from a selection of Advanced Placement courses and will also study towards the American High School Diploma. Fees are in the US$14K – 22K bracket per annum.
You will need to contact your selected school directly for a full range of fees but check not only for tuition costs, but also for one-off maintenance / capitalisation payments, registration and admission fees. Check whether you are entitled to a sibling discount. Enrolment policies will vary between establishments but you may need to provide previous school reports and copies of passports, plus the child’s residence visa for Qatar and parents’ residence permits and Qatar ID.
Homeschooling is legal in the country but is regulated. Parents or caregivers will need to register each home-schooled child at a designated school, but you will have access to resources and other supports provided by the Education Institute through those schools.