Labouring After Labour
A How-To Guide for Parents on Managing Baby's Paperwork
Rahama Johnson, a Canadian expat who has lived in Doha for a year, is expecting her first child in September. Apart from the usual anxieties felt by most new parents, Johnson said she is also concerned about the paperwork involved with having her baby abroad.
"I am unsure of the whole procedure," said the 31-year-old.
For the thousands of expats like Johnson who give birth in Qatar each year, adjusting to life with a new baby entails more than round-the-clock feedings and changing there's also some legwork involved to ensure your child's nationality and residency permit.
What needs to be done, who has to do it, and within what timeframe are the most common questions expectant parents are asking. Though many expats' companies will handle part or all of the paperwork for them, some parents, particularly those wanting to travel with their child forthwith, prefer to hasten the process by tackling it themselves.
Though the paperwork seemed daunting at first for Kelly Johnstone, a 31-year-old British expat who delivered her first baby in March, the new mom said the steps were not as complicated as she expected.
"I think the information you're given is very unclear," she said. "But once you get the ball rolling, it's not all that bad."
Keep in mind that only your baby's immunization record ("green card"), and not his or her residency permit, is required to visit the local health center, which provides free vaccinations for all expats and nationals.
Still, it is advisable to complete the baby's paperwork as soon as possible. The three main steps are obtaining the baby's birth certificate, heading to your embassy to apply for a passport and, once passport is in hand, applying for a residency permit. According to Hukoomi, the Qatari government's website, this process must be completed within two months of the child's birth. Not meeting this deadline could result in fines and prevent a family from taking their baby out of the country.
To complete the first step, obtaining your baby's birth certificate, you must first make sure you have the child's registration number. For those giving birth at Hamad hospital, this number will be given to you upon discharge. If you've delivered at one of Doha's private hospitals, you will receive a birth notification to take to Hamad's Women's Hospital, across the street from Lulu Centre (not Hypermarket). There, you will get a registration number.
Present this at the National Health Authority, across the street from Hamad and next to Lulu Centre. Those needing an English translation of the baby's birth certificate will be sent upstairs, and then back downstairs to pay the cashier QR20/copy. You will be handed a receipt and can pick the birth certificate and certified copies up one week later. If you've given birth at a private hospital, you can also present your child's vaccination records while you're at the NHA and collect his or her green card.
Though these steps may seem straightforward, many parents complain of being confused by the crowds and signs confronting them at both Hamad and the NHA. To cut down waiting time and avoid standing in the wrong line, Johnstone offers some simple advice:
"Ask as many people as you can," she said, adding that soliciting direction from strangers sped up the process for her husband. "They're all really sweet and really helpful."
Photo by Mint Imperial
Once you've picked up the birth certificate, head to your embassy and apply for a passport. Each country has different policies and forms to fill out to register births abroad, so be sure to look into the requirements on your embassy's website.
Generally, you will be required to fill out a passport application for your child and present copies of his or her passport photos, which can be taken at any imaging shop for a small fee. You will also need your marriage certificate and you and your spouse's passports.
It can take as long as two weeks to get a passport, so plan accordingly to meet the country's two-month deadline. Those not wanting to tackle the paperwork while caring for a new baby, especially parents planning to travel with their newborns, can expedite the process by doing some of the work early on.
"When the baby's here you're all flustered, so it's helpful to do things before," advises Johnstone, who printed and filled out as much information on the passport application as she could before her son was born.
Once you have the passport, you can finally apply for a residency permit. This entails first filling out a permit request form for a newborn baby in both English and Arabic. For parents who need help with the Arabic, both the request form and typist services are available at the Sofitel hotel (now known as the Mercure) in the Musheirib area.
Take the form, which should have an affixed picture of your baby and his or her thumbprint, the newborn's passport, birth certificate and immunization records and parents' passports to an immigration office. Anthony D'Souza, a Qatar-born Indian who regularly advises people on paperwork procedures, recommends heading to the Ministry of Interior, located near Hamad hospital's emergency entrance, for the quickest service.
"It's better not to go to the main immigration office (in Madinat Khalifa)," said the 31-year-old, whose wife is expecting their second child in November. "You have to go in the queue at 4 or 5 am - they called my number at 11 am."
At the MOI, "you will hand over the documents, they'll verify the documents and immediately stamp the visa," D'Souza added. According to Hukoomi, the residency permit will cost QR50. The penalty for not obtaining the RP within two months of the baby's is QR10/day a fee that adds up quickly, said D'Souza, who had to shell out an extra QR600 due to paperwork problems when his son was born in 2007.
To avoid the same fate, D'Souza advises new parents to do everything as quickly as possible, and "once you get a passport, just run for it."
The policies and procedures outlined above are intended to serve as a general guide for those like Johnson, who are looking for a simple explanation on completing their baby's paperwork. These may change over time or vary depending on nationality. Good luck!
Shabina S. Khatri is an American journalist freelancing in Doha, Qatar. She has previously written articles for Al Jazeera English, the Detroit Free Press and the Wall Street Journal. E-mail her at shabina.khatri[at]gmail[dot]com.
Giving Birth in Qatar (blog post)
Giving Birth in Qatar (Website Article)
Qatar's Cord Blood Bank (by the same author)
Pregnancy and Childbirth in Qatar (by the same author)