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Starting to Feel Legitimate

16th Feb 2012

Well, at last I have my three essential documents. A residence permit (RP), ID Card and driving license.  Without the RP and ID card you cannot buy a certain type of meat or drink to take home, you cannot rent a property in your own name, you cannot rent or buy a car and you cannot get a driver’s license.  Do I need to tell you that some of these restrictions have somewhat cramped my lifestyle for the past 6 weeks or so?

The journey feels like it has been a long one, although if the truth be told, much of it has been a waiting game.

In order to obtain a residence permit one must first produce several passport photos and an original passport, to which is affixed a temporary visa. Next a blood test and chest x-ray are taken. This is done by the public health provider here and takes some time to arrange, I am told the time is typically three weeks and mine was done in the first week of February.

If you are to be subject to this process you will need to allocate about half a day to be processed through the tests. The queues are very long and even if a local goes with you and assists you to jump some of the queues it can still take several hours to get through the system. I am not sure how I feel about the queue jumping. It seems that it is very much a case of who you know rather than who you are that makes a difference here and if you know no one you can end up waiting a very long time.

Following a “pass” on the medical tests (it is not entirely clear what constitutes a “fail”), which you will receive with two or three days you will be notified that you need to go for a blood typing test (this is very quick and is done through a finger prick), and for finger printing. The finger printing process takes electronic prints of every finger and thumb at every conceivable angle, and your palm prints. It is however all done very quickly. Following these two processes I was then issued with a Qatar ID Card and a Residence Permit was inserted in my passport.

My Qatar ID. Card

My Qatar ID. Card

Whoopee I thought! Now I can go and get my driving license changed over. Not quite that simple.

First I had to get a letter from my employer (the ubiquitious NOC or “No Objection Certificate”) which basically says that the employer has no objection to me holding a Qatari licence. Once I had this letter accompanied by the original and copies of both sides of my ID Car and my passport and RP I was able to go to the traffic police and apply, after paying 250 riyal, for a Qatar Driving Licence.

Imagine my joy as I left the police station after only 20 minutes with a brand-new shiny, Qatar driving license… and then my dismay to realise that they had issued me a license to drive a car but not a license to ride a motor bike!

Oh well, “easy fixed”, I thought to myself. Wrong again! On returning to the police station I am told that my employer had only “not objected” to me driving a car, no reference was made to a motor bike. The fact that my UK license clearly stetd that I am licensed for a motor bike is irrelevent. My employer must issue a new letter. This the employer is in the process of doing. Will let you know how I fare.

My Qatar Driving License

My Qatar Driving License

The lesson to be learnt here is that you must be specific AND complete in what you ask for if any document is to be submitted through an official process. It pointless blaming the process and there is very little, if any, room amongst any of the people who are involve din the process to exercise discretion.  Most people here feel very priveleged to be here and to be allowed to work in this country and there are very few who are willing to jeopardise their livelihood and that of their families by stepping off the low-risk beaten path that they have been told to follow.

In Australia we would parody Rachel Hunter’s famous words “it won’t happen overnight… but it will happen”. Here the local version is “it will happen… insh’Allah” or “it will happen if God wills it”.

Next week I buy a car. You can bet that will be an adventure.

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