Seasoned traveller Mike Left hits a wall of paperwork at the Qatar border.
Qatar. Rejected at the border
There’s a question box on any visa application that I’ve always could mark as ‘NO’. It’s the one that asks if you’ve ever been denied entrance to any country. Yeah, I was kicked out of Qatar this week, though technically the airport immigration area isn’t really, really the country. Or at least that will be my defence!
I was invited to speak at a conference in Qatar and was due to travel from Dubai where I was on business. The invitations were sent a little late and when I read the details I discovered that I needed a visa to enter. I called the Qatari embassy in Dubai and got little information, so I jumped in a taxi and headed to BurJuman district where all the embassies are…. And after clearing security an officer at the embassy told me that I was most welcome in Qatar so long as I had a visa.
1 piece of paper with a single stamp: 5 working days
“Great!” I said. “Can I apply here?” To which he said yes – before dropping the news that it takes a minimum of 5 working days. “Bit of a situation with that one… I’m due in Doha tomorrow”, as I began to plead for some urgency to processing just a small piece of paper with a stamp and a signature.
I left the embassy a bit riled at the bureaucracy I saw, then called my office for some assistance. “Phone our ministry and see what they can do!” which they did and returned with the good news that a 72-hour business visa was available on arrival in Doha, which suited me as I was only due there for 2 nights.
E-visa, so easy?
I sorted flight tickets, printed documents needed for the 72-hour visa application, got myself to the airport in Dubai on time, cleared Dubai immigration and queued for the plane at the gate. It’s just under an hour flight time between Dubai to Doha so I was figuring out how to be productive with the day when I landed, when I was pulled out of the crowd by the flight management wanting to check my visa.
“I’m getting a 72-hour business visa when I land”, I explained… and they all looked blankly at me. Switching to the miracle of technology, I showed them on my smartphone the information on the 72-hour visa that was on the Qatari government web portal. All the details of what it was about appeared and after seeing them nod I continued on my way and soon slipped into my seat with the other passengers.
Wandering into Qatar immigration and not seeing which queue applied to me, I pulled aside an official-looking individual and explained what I needed. Within a few minutes, I was out of the general area and sitting in front of the border police showing them the same information on the Qatari government portal about how to get a 72-hour visa.
The waiting game
From there this little tale all gets a bit ugly. I had some information put in front of me to sign, which I refused as it was in Arabic which I did not understand. Then my passport was taken away, and I was escorted back to a secure area to wait, and wait, and wait some more. Eventually my passport appeared and I was put straight back on a fight to Dubai where the UAE border police there were ready to ask me about my movements for that day.
“The 72-hour visa, look at the Qatari government information, I had all the documents ready, yes I have a Dubai access visa, there it is, no…. I have never been ejected from a country before and no I do not have a criminal record….” That’s how it went for some more hours in another airport.
So, now that I’m free I guess I have an experience to recount which may be of use to others wanting to get into Qatar. You need a minimum of 5 working days, and sometimes up to 10 working days to get a visitor’s visa issued. Ignore every other piece of advice that is contrary to this.