In individual’s first priority upon moving to Qatar is, usually, to sort out their residence permit (RP). Entry into the country requires a visa, which you can buy from the Customs desk at the airport on arrival, but this is strictly a tourist visa which only lasts for three months. If you are planning on staying in the country longer than this and working, then you must obtain an RP.
RPs are acquired with the help of your sponsor; this is your employer if you’ve come here to work, or an immediate family member (husband, wife, parent) if you do not work and are considered under their sponsorship. Thus, everyone is Qatar is accounted for, and everything you do is linked back to your RP as it is an official form of identification.
The RP process is a bit long-winded but nothing too intense; it’s not particularly pleasant but I suppose it could be worse. Firstly, you need a proper work visa, which starts with a visa application, authorized by your employer, filled out in Arabic and sent to the requisite government office. While waiting for this application to go through, you should take advantage of your free time and go to a medical clinic to have your blood group determined. Most clinics know exactly what needs to be done and can fill out the appropriate ‘RP blood group form’ for you. You should also have some passport-sized photos taken (on a blue background!) as you’ll be needing a few of these in the future.
Once the visa application is returned and the blood type is determined, all individuals must proceed to the Supreme Council of Health (way, way, way, on the outskirts of town) in order to have the necessary medical examination. The medical exam consists of a chest X-ray and blood test, and is, by far, the most tedious portion of this whole exercise. For my medical exam, the events unfolded as listed below…
1) Arrive and show security guard on the door documentation and receive number ticket.
2) Take documentation and number ticket to one of two ladies who fill out a registration form in Arabic.
3) Wait until number is called, pay for medical exam and get Medical Commission barcode form.
4) Wait for number to be called, get chest X-ray, get appropriate barcode form stamped.
5) Take barcode form to blood-drawing counter, receive blood collection vials, get blood drawn, get appropriate barcode form stamped.
6) Go home and wait for results.
At least, that’s how I think the process should go as it was a bit chaotic in there with at least 100+ women waiting around to get the same things filled, stamped, X-rayed and drawn as me. Also, although my company employ someone to help with the admin portion of the RP process, and this man was able to meet me at the Supreme Council of Health with my documentation, the examination centre has strict ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ sections and I had to go in alone, not speaking a word of Arabic; every time I was pointed to go somewhere I hoped it was in the right direction.
All in all, the actual medical exam bit was not bad, it was the waiting that killed me. I arrived at the clinic at 8am and by the time I was ready to leave it was nearly 11:30 and I was (literally) emotionally and physically drained; at the blood-drawing counter I saw the 2 women in front of me get one vial each so when the woman behind the counter scanned my barcode and produced no less that three vials, my eyes widened in disbelief. She noticed my surprise and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘sorry’. The nurse who took my blood attributed the 3 vials to my profession, I guess the words ‘laboratory’ and ‘research scientist’ bring up a few red flags.
Once this huge medical examination task is out of the way, the only thing left to do is have your fingerprints taken at Civil Defense’s offices (way, way, way on the outskirts of town) and wait for all of the processing to go through, simple!