How to Be Prepared If You Have to Leave Doha Quickly
Last minute “dash departures” are becoming more of a reality for expatriates living and working here in Doha. Oil and gas prices continue to drop and jobs associated with this type of work are being affected. Even employment in construction, engineering and schools has been touched by the crisis. As a result, many organisations in Qatar seem to be hurriedly downsizing. The uncertainty of your or your spouse’s job security is, of course, stressful especially if you are an expat who may also need to leave the country if your job is made redundant. However, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your family is ready should you need to leave Qatar quickly.
Even in smoother economic times, urgent departures can happen as a result of other emergencies, including family, health, safety or even political issues. The best thing that you can do for yourself and your family is to be prepared for an unexpected exit.
Talk to your kids openly about living abroad and moving regularly but keep conversations age appropriate. Make sure that they understand home is where you make it and teach your children how to keep in touch with friends and family globally. FaceTime, Skype, even old-fashioned letter writing are great ways to keep up long-distance relationships.
Have a Plan B
If the breadwinner in the family is laid off, having a secondary source of income can be a great relief. If you are sponsored by your spouse, make sure to keep your CV up to date, have letters of reference on hand and always update your contact list in case you need a last minute referral.
Get your documents in order
Make sure that you have photocopies, or better yet, scanned electronic copies of everything:
- Passports: Check the expiration dates regularly. Many countries (including GCC, the United States and the United Kingdom) require passports to have at least six months to expiration in order to be valid.
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificate
- School records
- Health and vaccination records, etc.
Be sure to shred any documents you don’t need. It is astonishing how quickly non-essential documents can add up to additional heavy weight.
Don’t forget your pets
Every country has different regulations and vaccination requirements for pet entry so do your research now before it becomes urgent, but generally speaking, you will need to consider all these elements:
- Up-to-date vaccinations: Vaccinations and boosters often need to be done between two weeks and three months before travel. EU and some other countries also require a valid rabies antibodies test (RATT).
- Microchip: Pets must be microchipped before leaving Qatar.
- Travel crate: The specifications vary depending on the size and type of the animal; to where you are travelling; and whether they will fly as cargo, accompanied baggage or in the cabin (depends on the airline). The travel crate will also need spill-proof food and water containers, kennel blanket and urine pads. It’s always good to try to acclimate your pet to their travel container well before you need to travel—this will go a long way in helping to reduce the stress of travel for them and you.
- Timing: The amount of time it takes to prepare for an animal to leave Qatar varies from one month to as long as nine depending on the country. If you need to leave the country before your pet, start planning for a boarding or foster solution until your pet is ready to fly.
- Expenses: Depending on the animal and to where you are travelling, exporting a pet can be very expensive so check costs now and include it in your emergency leave budget.
Every six months or so, go through your house and recycle, donate or have a yard sale to purge and keep your levels of excess down. Thinning out your belongings long before you are given the go to leave will make packing up the house much less stressful and costly. Sort by what you need and what you want to take with you and let go of the rest. This way, when you do have to leave (and even if it’s not a dash exit in the end), your belongings are ready.
*Helpful hint: Take photos of your children’s artwork and store them electronically instead of keeping all those heavy drawings!
Pay off your debts
Depending on the volatility of your or your spouse’s job, it may be prudent to keep as little debt in Qatar as possible as you will not be able to leave Qatar if you have any outstanding debt; couple that with no job and you could find yourself in a very difficult situation. No debt may mean selling your car if you have an outstanding loan and opting for a rental, or better yet, car-pooling. On a smaller scale (unless you are a red light-running speed demon), be sure to pay your traffic violations and fines so that you are not left having to do it at the last minute. Furthermore, keep your Qatar bank account low. There are limits to how much money can be transferred out of an account in one transaction and you don’t want your cash to be held up in Qatar when you’re ready to leave the country.
Once it’s official that you will be leaving Qatar, here are the things you need to take care of before taking your last selfie with the giant teddy bear at HIA and hopping a flight out of here.
- Pay off and cancel your bank loans and credit cards if you have them.
- Stop automatic payments and salary transfers.
- Close your bank account. This can take up to two months, so get started as soon as you can.
- Close your mobile, landline, cable, satellite, internet, insurance, QDC, electricity and water accounts.
- Switch to a prepaid phone plan so you don’t have to go incommunicado.
- Switch to cash or bank cards from a bank in another country for payments.
- Inform your landlord of your impending departure and provide a letter of notice.
- Separate your belongings into three groups: to ship; to pack; to throw away, donate or sell. *Bonus: Let the kids help with this; involving them now will make the transition easier.
- Sell big ticket items like furniture and cars as soon as possible. Rent a car or hire a driver for your remaining time in Qatar. Consider booking a hotel room for your last few days in Doha to ensure that your house or apartment is completely empty.
- Hold an open house, list your items on one of the many Facebook second-hand goods groups or drop off gently used clothing at one of the donation containers around Doha.
- Consider giving items you don’t need to bring with you to compound staff, gardeners, nannies, etc. This can include clothing, toiletry items, foodstuffs, etc.
- If you sponsor a nanny or maid, start looking or help her to look for a new sponsor as soon as possible. A transfer takes at least six weeks, so the sooner you find her a new sponsor or start cancelling her visa, the better. You will not be able to leave the country without your nanny being transferred or her visa cancelled and she sent back to her home country.
- Inform your children’s school as soon as possible.
- Request a refund for your deposit and remaining school term fees if the school allows.
- Request school reports and test results so you can begin enrolment for their next school or placement.
- Start gathering contact information for your children’s friends so you can help them stay in touch.
- Hire a babysitter for heavy packing days or when the relocation company comes to take away your boxes.
- Request the most recent copies of medical records from you and your family.
- If you or a family member is taking prescription medication, make sure to get it refilled so you have enough to last before you find a new doctor in your new destination.
- Hire one of the many pet relocation services.
- Or, if you want to do it yourself, get an animal health certificate from the government veterinary services seven days before you travel. They have been undergoing recent renovations so it is best to call ahead to make an appointment: +974 4456-0435.
- Request copies of your pet’s medical history. Scan and save digital copies if possible.
- Book your pet on a flight as accompanied baggage, cargo or in cabin (restrictions apply according to the animal, airline and destination), so keep this in mind as you select your flights.
- For more information on importing animals, check with the appropriate government agency of the country to which you are moving.
And of course, most importantly, make sure that you have cancelled your and your family’s residency permits. Family visas will need to be cancelled first before the family sponsor. You will need to hand over your passports to your or your spouse’s sponsor in order to have them cancelled so make sure they have at least six months validity.
Quick repatriations can be incredibly stressful and challenging on a family. If you ever find yourself in need of a dash departure, take each day one day at a time. Remember to take care of yourself while you are taking care of your family.