Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Exit permits

One thing about Qatar that most Westerners don't expect is the requirement for all foreigners who live in the country (at least, those who are not Arabs from the Gulf) to have an exit permit in order to leave the country. We are used to needing a visa to enter a country, but certainly not one to have to exit a country. Qatar is not unique in this regard, It is common in most of the region and I'm sure a few countries in the developing world have similar requirements. I'm guessing it is to prevent people from running off without paying their debts. It is also a good way to ensure that the only foreigners living here are those who have jobs or married to someone who has a job -- the exit permit is provided by your sponsor or employer. So if you or someone in your family doesn't have a job, no exit permit, and no leaving the country. This of course can cause problems for those who for some reason do not have an exit permit as they may then become stuck in the country with no way to leave. This can happen with workers who are in the country illegally. Recently, the United Arab Emirates granted a general amnesty for those people who needed to get a permit to leave the country without worrying about being arrested for being in the country illegally. Thousands turned up. I'm not sure if the UAE government was expecting the massive scale of illegal workers in the country.

So, why am I explaining exit permits to you? Because this week I was scheduled to go on a business trip to Dubai, went to the airport, went to immigration... and then was told that my exit permit had expired 5 days ago and that I was not allowed to leave the country! The HR department at work missed that my exit permit expired and forgot to renew it. (They did remember, however, to inform at least six of my colleagues that theirs is expiring and in need of renewal). So that was that -- I was not getting on that plane! Unfortunately we were not able to renew the exit permit until the following day by which time the forum that I was supposed to be attending was over. Needless to say that kind of sucked. I was not in a good mood that morning, but I eventually got over it. Mistakes happen. At least it didn't happen on a weekend when I was going on vacation, I would have been really screwed then. But it was then that I realised that the concept of exit permits is very annoying.


Magnus said...

Well, it was nice knowing you.

Of course that is the way I feel in my own country.

Glen McKay said...

I have my exit permit renewed now, so at least I'm able to travel again. That was still a pain though.