Getting a Job in Qatar
Tips & Advice on Finding work in Qatar
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Why get a job in Qatar?
Most people come here for the money - which is tax free. But let's not forget that Qatar is actually quite a nice place to work in, although you need a bit of money to enjoy it fully. Western expatriates can enjoy a superior life style, with domestic help in the home, without having to give up alcohol or substantially change their dress. (See Living in Qatar: Myths and Realities). Christians and Shia Muslims can enjoy relative freedom of worship. And don't imagine that the whole country is arid desert - the city is being beautified (the Corniche is lovely), and even the desert is far from being devoid of greenery.
Look for work from home or come to Qatar?
Chances are, you will be much better off as an employee who was recruited from home than some colleagues who were recruited locally. International contracts often have substantially better pay and conditions, such as flights back to your home country for yourself and your family. The situation might, of course, be different if you already have contacts or family present. (If you are recruited locally you may also be able to negotiate an international contract.)
It is now completely normal for women to work in Qatar. However, if you are already in the country and are sponsored by your husband and father, you need to register as a working woman. You need to do this after you have been offered a job, at the women's section of the labour department. See our page Working Women in Qatar for more information.
Licence to work
Spouses and other relatives of sponsors here - including men - now need a licence to work here. At the time of writing the licence costs QAR500 a year. The licence can be obtained from the Department of Labour.
Government post, large company or small firm?
A big international company is always the best, and often have substantially better benefits. Government posts can have stifling bureaucracy - but also sometimes very good working hours. What's more, they normally a single shift. Ggovernment posts also often mean a five day weeking work, compared to a 5 1/2 or 6 day week for most companes.
Try to avoid small companies and start ups - you could easily find yourself in deep trouble if a company goes bust.
You will need to pass a health check including and x-ray and blood test before being allowed to become resident in Qatar. This is normally but not always performed in Qatar.
Sponsorship has been compared to slavery most recently by the Qatari Prime Minister (so it is probably on its way out). When in Qatar you can't open a bank account, get an alcohol permit or leave the country without permission from you sponsor. Qatar has recently been hammered in the Annual Trafficking in Persons.
While most well-paid expatriates would not consider themselves to be slaves, their are limits on your freedom which can be an annoyance especially if you have an emergency outside the country and you have to wait for permission to leave.
What's more, while sponsorship can be an bureaucratic annoyance when working for the Government or a large company, it could potentially be a nightmare when working directly for your sponsor. Another reason to avoid small companies!
Be wary of coming here hoping to transfer and find a better job once you are here. You are not allowed to transfer between companies for two years, after which you still need the permission of your sponsor to transfer to another company, and your sponsor can also ban you from returning to Qatar to work for two years.
You do have certain rights here. You should only work for a maximum of six days a week, work over eight hours should be paid overtime and you shouldn't have to work more than ten hours at all.
In practice these rules are often broken, however there is legal recourse should you need it. A copy of the relevant Qatar Labour Law can be found here: Qatar Labour Law
Part time/Additional work
Laws concerning part time work have recently been changed. It is now legal to undertake part time work in addition to your primary job if you have the permission of your employer.
A mistake some people here is to assume that they can buy the same with their riyal salary as they can in their own country. The salaries some jobs have here can look attractive from some countries, but don't forget that Qatar can be expensive, and is currently experiencing high levels of inflation.
Renting a serviced apartment, for example, will probably set you back in the region of four thousand dollars. Many lower paid workers struggle to survive on their wages, and other people have sent their families home because of the increasing cost of living. See our blog for regular updates on prices and the cost of living.
A Word of Warning
Some people get into debt to come here and then can't find a job. Others find a position which doesn't pay enough to cover their debt. There are also unscrupulous agencies (not Qatari) who demand payment to bring workers here.
I spoke to a maid who had to pay 1200 Riyals to come here (her job now pays here QR600 a month). She was lucky she had the money to pay up front; other workers take on debt with these agencies which their wages are insufficient to cover. They are then unable to escape their debtors because of threats against their families. In the past workers have been known to commit suicide because of the pressure they are under.
While there are probably many respectable agencies, it is not worth borrowing money to come here.
Some people never receive contracts. Many people turn down work in Qatar because they are never given a contract to sign. Others see the contract but do not get to sign it. There have been cases of contracts and working conditions being changed after the workers have arrived in Qatar, although this will not happen with reputable companies.
Note that although you may have an English copy of the contract, the contract will also be written in Arabic. In the event of any dispute, it is the Arabic version which will hold sway.
The contract must be attested by the Labour department, which will also keep a copy. You should also have a copy, as should your employer. All the benefits that go with your post should be listed in your contract, as should your salary and payment method and date.
Generally, expatriates with families stay longer and seem more content than single people. Qatar is well set up for children, and spouses can easily find work, although not always at very good salaries. Note that workers must have a certain salary before they can bring their families. Also, as many workers sponsor their own family, they may have to come to Qatar and obtain their resident's permit before being able to bring their family here, a process which can take two to three months.
If you are going for an outside job, remember that working in the sun can be brutal, especially in August when temperatures can reach 50 degrees. There is supposed to be a limit above which workers cannot work, but this is not always enforced. If you are Muslim, it is often possible to work night shifts during Ramadan check this with your employer before you arrive.
Where to look for work:
Websites to start looking on
Qatar Visitor Jobs (That's ours!)
Qatar Petroleum Jobs
Jobs with Qatar Liquefied Gas Company
Hamad Medical Corporation
The Supreme Education Council vacancies The Supreme Education Council, which is gradually taking over the Ministry of Education, is the place to look for jobs in Qatar Education.
Jobs with Qatar Airways
Canadian Bureau for International Education
British Council Vacancies
Dave's Esl Cafe
College of the North Atlantic
There are many more. Try looking directly on the websites of companies you are interested in, or check out our page of major Qatar employers.
What to ask about at the interview?
When you will receive your 1st pay check?
Your first pay check may be two to three months after you arrive (you will probably receive loans to subsidise you during this time.) Check with your employer and budget accordingly.
Days and shifts worked
Many people work a six day week. Some people also work two shifts, morning and afternoon/evening. This means rush hour four times a day.
What you really want is accommodation included in your job offer, or at the very least a substantial housing allowance.
Often included in the contract.
Look for a yearly return flight to your country in your annual holiday. If you are bringing family, make sure they are included.
Make sure your salary is sufficient to bring your family. When a family is provided for, flights and education are often included. You will not be able to get permanent residence for children over the age of 18 by yourself. Also ask if your family can come with you, or if they will need to follow on.
Many companies have a special person who looks after the employees beaurocracy. This may not sound like much, but it will save you hours of misery queuing outside government offices. It's well worth finding out if your prospective employer has one!
A monthly allowance towards the cost of travel is quite common, although probably not that important if your wages are substantial.
And when you receive them - this may not be until you leave the country and your job!
It is not strictly necessary as there is a heavily subsided system of health care here. However, most foreign companies provide health insurance. Note that Qatar will be introducing a system of health insurance which will be paid for by employers. It is not yet clear whether worker sponsoring wives and children will have to pay too.
If it is a choice between working here or in Saudi, then it really is no contest: Life in Qatar is a far, far more pleasant. (See The Religious Policeman or A thought in the Kingdom of Lunacy if you don't believe me!) Good luck!