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Monday, September 05, 2011

Conquering the Qatar Visa woes !!

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Well this post is kind of putting down my experiences of getting in and out of Qatar and getting in UAE, legally of course :)

This post would be most useful if you are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Phillipines. Being India, I can describe the procedures I had to follow back in India, but it is safe to assume almost anybody from any of the above mentioned countries will have to undergo similar processes and similar hardships.

Visa Processes - fairly easy, if you got an offer from government/state run companies such as Saudi Aramco, Qatar Petroleum, ADNOC etc. So, in case you are the chosen one, you may neglect the rest of the post. For the lesser mortals, the processes is as under -

1. The Visa - If you are an engineer or professional with more than 5 years of work exp you might be given an 'Employment visa' aka 'Work visa' before you leave from India. However some smaller companies dont play as per the book (in order to save some upfront cost, reduce risk) issue Visit/Business visa and some even issue a Tourist visa. The authorities are fairly aware of these tactics and dont care much. But going by the books you are not allowed to work, if you are on Tourist visa or Visit visa. Unfortunately lot of companies have been exploiting their employees by hiding behind this aspect. E.g Company issues you a tourist or visit visa and makes you work for 1-3 month and then they don't pay you adequate salary or other benefits which they always promised and then they ask you to go back to your country. In such case you cant file a case against them, because legally you are not entitled for a local salary or other benefits if you are on a visit or tourist visa. So be extremely careful of this aspect.

2. Visa Categories - this aspect is slightly weird in Middle East. E.g in Qatar they might issue a visa for technician if you are a Commerce graduate ( non engineer). For MBAs and senior experiences professionals they issue ' Professional' visa in some cases and Technician visa in some other and even 'Engineer visa' if your undergrad was Engineering. In UAE, things are more sane and they offer visa based on designation such as Sales Manager, Project Manager, HR Manager etc but once again they have some unwritten strange rules such as you cant be given HR Manager visa without MBA or you cant get Sales Manager visa without being Engineer/MBA.

3. How does it matter - the Visa categories will matter when you apply for Credit card, bank loan for car or housing or personal loans. Things get murky if you are planning to go from one GCC country to another. E.g if you are on 'Technician visa' in Qatar, you cant get a visa on arrival for UAE, but if you are on 'Engineer visa' in Qatar, you can get a visa on arrival for UAE provided you Qatar visa is valid for at least 6 months from the date of travel to UAE.

4. Visa for family- Similarly you can apply for Visit visa/ residence visa for your family only if your monthly income is above QR.5000/5000 Dhms and you are on a decent visa ( Engineer, Doctor, Manager etc). Family visit/residence visa is not granted at all if you are on Technician, Plumber, Labour, Driver visa. Now a days, in some cases (there's no rule, so depending on the mood the Immigration Officer), the visit visa for Parents can be denied if the age of any of your parents is above 60 years. Its almost impossible to get a family visa for distant relatives such as cousins, niece etc.

5. Document Attestation - You need to attest the original degree (and not a color photo copy) from Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, followed by Embassy of the country in which you are planning to work in Delhi/Mumbai. In some cases the Immigration officers also insist on getting the Degree further 'stamped' by Ministry of External Affairs (MOEA) in the country in which you are planning to work. Which implies either your employer or some agent has to get this thing done. Usually MOEA attestation is not mandatory, but if you have time and resources get it done. You never want to take chances with Arabic mood swings. The warning here is - if your degree is only in regional language, you need to get it translated in English and get both the original and translation attested.

6. Attestation Requirements for Family -The marriage certificate has to be attested as mentioned in step 5 above. Sometimes. they may insist on the stamp of Indian embassy in the applicants country of residence on both original and translated certificate. Translation once again if it's in regional language.

7. Work Visa Ban - quiet strangely, if you resign from Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi, Oman and some areas of UAE you will be banned form working there for another 6 months to 2 years. For past 5 years the Gulf Cooperation Council has been talking about abolishing these laws, but no developments yet, barring the Free Zones in UAE, i.e. if you work in Free zone, you can smoothly take up a new job anywhere else in UAE without worrying about ban!

8. Communication issues - if your company PRO (btw, PRO is the only person allowed to go to the government offices and apply for work visas on behalf of companies) is not very proactive and updated you can face reasonable delays, unforeseen circumstances especially if you visit the MOI (Ministry of Interior) alone. All the government officials working in MOI are strictly locals and they dont prefer to/want to/knows to communicate in any language other than Arabic (unless you are Westerner/White skin).

Typing Centers - At least in Qatar and UAE all the visa related forms are available only in Arabic. So you need to go to typing centers located in close proximity of MOI office. So if you are not accompanied by your PRO or someone capable of reading/writing Arabic.


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