As the annual holiday exodus out of Qatar begins, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) has reminded residents not to head to the airport without their ID cards.
However, those who misplace their IDs while abroad will still be allowed back into the country as long as they’ve only been gone for less than six months, the ministry said.
Earlier this year, Qatar overhauled its ID card system and introduced several changes, such as phasing out the use of visa stickers in passports.
Instead, residents are now being given new Qatar ID cards that contain more detailed information.
The new cards are issued when residents go to renew their expired residency permits. The cards then serve as the only official document to prove one’s identity and residency here.
That means travelers with these cards need to produce them alongside their passports when entering and leaving Qatar.
Following the ministry’s announcement, some residents expressed concerns about what to do if they lost their ID cards while abroad.
Earlier this week, the MOI said in a Facebook post that foreign residents who are away for less than six consecutive months – the maximum time an expat can spend outside Qatar without losing their residency status – who lose their ID card will be allowed to enter the country.
In these cases, authorities will issue a resident a return visa at Hamad International Airport and their ID card will be marked as lost in the government’s immigration system.
However, how expats who cannot obtain a visa on arrival in Qatar would be allowed to travel back to the country remains unclear.
Many airlines require passengers to prove they have permission to visit Qatar before boarding a plane by showing their visa or residency permit.
Meanwhile, the process becomes more complicated for residents who lose their ID card and spend more than six months outside of Qatar.
These expats need their return visa processed by their sponsor in order to re-enter Qatar and must sign an undertaking promising not to exceed the six-month limit again, the MOI said.
If the sponsor refuses to process the return visa, the expat will be turned over to the authorities and could be charged with violating Qatar’s residency laws.
The combination of school winter breaks, National Day and Christmas mean that mid-December is one of the busiest times of the year to fly out of Qatar.
While passengers reported few problems at the check-in desks and departure area last year, long lineups still snaked out from immigration counters.
Those queues can largely be avoided by obtaining an e-gate card, which allow residents to pass through automated immigration gates.
Details of how to obtain one can be found here.
Airport officials have previously advised passengers to arrive at the airport three hours before their scheduled departure.
Additionally, several seasoned travelers have previously suggested that residents can save time by checking in online and printing off their boarding passes at home.
For more advice on surviving the airport rush this season, see our tips here.