7 Things To Know Before Relocating To Qatar
Qatar is a sovereign Arab state located on the Persian Gulf and home to an enormous oil and gas reserve. Listed as the world’s richest country by Forbes in 2013, Qatar also has the highest human development according to the United Nations Development Programme.
However, behind the 5 star lifestyle, cheaper-than-water prices of petrol and booming expat community lies a country still in development with a “2030 vision”. Here are 7 things to know before relocating to Qatar.
For many expats, moving to Qatar means a life of luxury. Petrol is cheaper than bottled water – it costs around $15 USD to fill up a 4×4 – and you don’t even need to leave your vehicle to fill up as there’s always an attendant to do that for you. The same is true with the packaging of your shopping bags, the washing of your car and many expats have live-in cleaning staff due to the cheap labour costs.
However, Qatar is still a country in transition. Many areas are still being developed and with the 2022 World Cup fast approaching the number of new stadiums currently in development (estimated to cost around $220 billion USD) is staggering. The Lusail Iconic Stadium, for example, is set to hold 86,250 people and house its own metro station, so there is still some work to do!
Despite the vast amount of work in progress, the lifestyle on offer is still fantastic for many expats relocating to Qatar,
2. Cost of living
While the luxuries on offer are fantastic, cost of filling your car up cheap, and the hands-free lifestyle so readily available, you wonder why the Westerners are still living in the dark ages – why would you ever want to fill your own car up or collect your own ‘Big Mac’ from the take-away? However, these luxuries do come at a price and the result is that the cost of living isn’t all that cheap.
90 percent of all food in Qatar is imported meaning that even the simplest of foods can be expensive and with the cost of entertainment rising by 8.7 percent in the last year, it’s easy to imagine how your free time can eat into your savings.
Another factor to consider is travel back home. Whilst many employers offer 1 free return flight per year to their employees, many find this is not enough and a return flight can set you back around $1,000 USD or more during peak months.
Covering only 4,467.6 square miles, Qatar covers a fairly small area offering a number of well sought after locations popular with expatriates. Whilst Qatar offers expats a tax-free salary, it is easy to eat into this money with expensive accommodation – unless of course your employers provide you with a housing allowance – so finding the right area for you (and your family) is important.
An average 4 bedroom villa will cost you around 13,000 QR ($3,570 USD) a month, with compound-based villas costing around 18,000 QR ($4,943 USD). However, a glistening 2 bed apartment in a high-rise in West Bay or the Pearl (Qatar’s man-made island), will still cost at least 12,000 QR ($3,295 USD) a month.
4. Work & Family Visas
Like many countries in the Middle East, Qatar requires all non-nationals who wish to work in the country to have a Qatar national to act as their sponsor. All businesses in Qatar are owned by citizens of Qatar so it is commonplace to be sponsored by your company.
A residency visa is also required to live in Qatar which usually takes 2 – 6 weeks to apply for and lasts from anything from 6 months to 2 years, and a medical is also required for entry into the country.
Family visas (for a husband/wife and children) must be granted to each individual before entering the country, but there are cases where these visas have not been granted. A working spouse must earn more than 10,000 QR ($2,746 USD) per month to be granted a family visa. Couples must also be married to live together in Qatar and any successfully sponsored spouses must enter the country with a special visa and begin the residency permit process within 1 week.
There are a number of companies that will only process family visas when an employee has been in Qatar for at least 6 months, meaning that families are separated for this period.
Qatar has a very good state health system. The Hamad Medical Corporation offers free treatment to everyone who registers, including expatriates. However, with the increasing number of expats moving to Qatar, now at an estimated 500 each day, the system is being put under a lot of strain. With waiting times increasing, many expats have opted for expensive private health care, which is currently not offered to all expat employees by their companies. Nonetheless, the Qatar government is still planning to introduce a universal health insurance system at beginning of 2015, meaning that all employees will have to receive insurance from their companies.
Education in Qatar is a popular talking point at the moment. With an increasing number of new expats moving to Qatar, the number of young children are also on the rise, meaning that local schools are full and the best have long waiting lists. It is also reported that some companies are struggling to recruit professionals from overseas due to the lack of places in schools for their children.
If possible, it is best to apply early for a place. The application window for most schools is very short, typically in January, and the majority of schools hold formal assessments for pupils of all ages.
Whilst many companies offer a schooling allowance in their expatriate packages, it is important to check whether or not this will cover the schooling fees as the cost of education at many of the International schools is expensive. With very few places in local schools, many have no choice but to send their children to International schools.
7. Other things to consider
Whilst you won’t find alcohol as easily as you might in Dubai, many of the 5 star hotels in Qatar have alcohol licences and with their employers’ permission, residents can apply for an alcohol licence which allows them to drink at home.
Women are also allowed to drive in Qatar, as well as work as long as they have a women’s working permit from the authorities, but they must respect their locale and dress moderately covered up (shoulders, cleavage, midriff and knees).
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