Can expired QID holders return to Qatar?
The Qatar government suspended all inbound flights to the country with only returning Qatari nationals being exempted as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19. This made it hard for most expatriates and residents to return to Qatar. Most of those stuck outside the country had the problem of expired QIDs. Qatar has cautiously adopted a phased approach, keeping in mind that a new wave of COVID-19 infections could be stimulated if the flow of travelers back into the country is not regulated.
This article is a guide to expired QID holders trying to return to Qatar.
Operations have gradually resumed, with many in-person applications being accepted. Some services are not available with services such as entry visas for work, family, and business still not being offered. The process is not easy for returning residents.
Progressive Approach to Entry
- Applying for the entry permit
Before a holder of a Resident Permit is allowed back into Qatar, their sponsor must first apply for an Entry Permit (EP) on the Qatar Portal. This applies to all employees sponsored by companies and to family members sponsored by spouses or their parents. The previous understanding was that family members would automatically obtain Entry Permits once the main applicant had the Entry Permit removed. Family members are to now obtain their Entry Permits separately. Without Entry Permits, Residence Permit owners will not be allowed back into the country. The entry permit is valid for 30 days and the Residence Permit owner will have to apply for a new one upon expiry.
The application process for an Entry Permit will see the sponsor provide information on the place of departure, the duration spent in the respective country along with health records and details. Senior individuals above 55 years of age, suffering from specified conditions, or coming from countries that are coming from countries that are not classified as “low risk” may avoid the one-week mandatory quarantine.
The processing time for an Entry Permit varies. Applications are processed mostly within two working days.
- Country of origin risk determination
The Ministry of Public Health is regularly updating its watchlist of countries that are considered to be low-risk in the spread of COVID-19. The country’s status will determine the quarantine conditions for the returning Residence Permit owner. If a Residence Permit holder is returning from a country that has been listed and he or she has spent more than a week before departure to the respective country, the person will be able to home quarantine for 7 days.
Generally, if Residence Permit owners come from countries that are not on this list, they need to hotel quarantine in an approved hotel for seven days followed by an additional seven days of home quarantine.
- Taking a COVID-19 test
Travelers coming into Qatar are to take a COVID-19 test at the airport on arrival. A few select countries have the test waived for individuals provided the Residence Permit owner had a COVID-19 test at a Ministry of Public Health approved hospital within 72 hours of his or her flight. For certain countries, Qatar Airways will require travellers to take a COVID-19 test at a Qatar Airways-approved health centre 48 hours before their flight. These countries include;
- The Philippines
- Sri Lanka
It is expected that more countries will make the list. Failure to take the test will result in being barred from taking the flight.
- Quarantine Requirements
The approved Entry Permit will state whether the applicant will have to home or hotel quarantine. The Residence Permit owner will have to sign an undertaking pledging that he or she will abide by the conditions required in-home quarantine.
As mentioned above, if the entry permit confirms that one can home-quarantine, the Residence Permit owner will be allowed to quarantine at home for seven days. For hotel quarantine, the Residence Permit holder must undergo a six-day quarantine period which must be booked via the Discover Qatar website, before travelling.
After the quarantine period, the Residence Permit holder will be allowed to leave quarantine if they test negative.
- Contact Tracing
Residence Permit holders are required to download the Ehteraz app onto their smartphones. Many public buildings such as government agencies, malls, restaurants and hotels check the app before granting access to their premises.
The app has four modes on display, which are colour-coded. Healthy (green), quarantined (yellow), suspected of being infected with COVID (grey) and confirmed infected (red). The app will show yellow upon downloading and installing it. At the end of the quarantine period, following a second negative test, the app will be green.
Some issues frequently faced by Residence Permit owners include;
- Some sponsors have faced problems opening an account on the Qatar Portal.
- Employers have had their applications declined due to some new infarctions on the Wage Protection System.
- Applicants are urged to ensure all criteria have been met before applying for an Entry Permit as new applications cannot be submitted for 30 days from the date of application.