COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Qatar is an hereditary 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. Qatar’s first written constitution was adopted in 2005. Islamic beliefs and tribal traditions provide an important foundation of the country’s customs, laws and practices. Located on the Persian Gulf, Qatar is a dynamic, rapidly developing country that is among the wealthiest in the world by per capita income. Tourist facilities are available. Please read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Qatar for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you plan to live in or visit Qatar, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, we can keep you informed about important safety and security announcements. This may also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the Embassy.
U.S. Embassy Doha
Al-Luqta District, 22nd February Street, PO Box 2399, Doha
Telephone: (974) 4496-6000, extension 0 or 6600
Emergency after-hours telephone: (974) 4496-6000, extension 0 or 6600,
Facsimile: (974) 4488-4298
The Embassy observes a Sunday through Thursday workweek. Government offices and most businesses in Qatar also observe a Sunday through Thursday workweek.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Passports and visas are required. U.S. citizens can purchase a visa upon arrival at Doha International Airport valid for thirty (30) days. To facilitate entry with Qatari Immigration, former resident permit holders should carry a “no objection letter” issued by their former sponsor.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Qatar. Qatar does not allow individuals with HIV/AIDS to live in 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 before you travel.
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. Travelers 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 additional information on visas, residence permits, and entry requirements, please visit Qatar’s E-Government English language web site. Travelers may also contact the Embassy of the State of Qatar at 2555 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20037, telephone (202) 274-3150; fax (202) 237-9880. 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, or via email.
Military personnel are subject to different entry/exit requirements and should contact the Department of Defense 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. Foreign governments, however, have no authority to revoke the citizenship of a U.S. citizen. If such an incident 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 website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
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. U.S. citizens in Qatar should maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take appropriate steps to bolster their personal security at all times. U.S. citizens should also avoid visiting labor or work camps, where unrest can occur because of 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-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan strikes against Western targets and these attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics to include assassination, kidnapping, hijacking, and bombing.
Increased security at official facilities has led terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer, less fortified targets. 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 before it starts. The Embassy strongly encourages U.S. citizens to avoid large crowds and demonstrations whenever possible.
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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 in recent years as Doha’s population and economic pressures on expatriate workers have increased. Local and third-country-national young men have occasionally verbally and physically harassed unaccompanied expatriate women. Reports of petty theft are infrequent but have been growing, including ATM and credit card theft, purse snatching, and pickpocketing. Travelers should not leave valuables such as cash, jewelry, and electronic items unsecured in hotel rooms or unattended in public places.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Qatar is 999. You can contact the Qatari Police 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 you are traveling in Qatar, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. It is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings; well-marked signs will usually inform you. Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. There are also some things that might be legal in Qatar, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Qatar, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not wherever you go.
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 U.S. citizens that Qatari police have arrested U.S. 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 U.S. citizens, 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. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers should review the LGBT Travel Information page.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
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, Texas,for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Islam and tribal traditions provide an important foundation for 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 acceptable only at hotel pools and 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. Activities that Qataris might think are inappropriate could include attempting to convert a member of one religion to another, or “sharing one’s faith” with someone of a different faith. Similar practices can be deemed violations of Qatari law, with deportation or even prison time as a consequence. Accordingly, charitable activities, both religious and non-religious, must be approved in advance by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
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 should 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.
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 the U.S. Embassy Doha website for more information. For authentication of educational degrees and occupational certifications, please visit the U.S. Embassy website’s Authentication page. This 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 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.
Accessibility: While in Qatar, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Qatar is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, and is working to ensure that Qatari laws and codes comply with the Convention. Qatar’s leadership has dedicated a quasi-government institution, the Shafallah Institute, to the issue of accessibility, accommodation, and integration of people with disabilities into all the various sectors of Qatari life – including education, employment, transportation, and medical care. Individuals with disabilities, however, may still find public places difficult to access (i.e., scarcity of ramps, TTY or TDD communication systems, Braille signs, and/or appropriate restroom facilities) and public transportation such as buses and taxis unfamiliar with procedures required to accommodate people with disabilities.
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 can be found on their website.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. You will need health cards for access to Hamad Hospital. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Qatar, you 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, U.S. citizens need to pass a driving exam, including a road test. 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.
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 U.S. citizens for driving after consuming amounts of alcohol at lower levels than legally allowed in the United States.
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, D.C. 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. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Qatar dated August 21, 2012 to update the section on Criminal Penalities.