Expatriates are unlikely to face problems while checking in at foreign airports for travelling to Doha after June 15 since Qatar must have by then informed all concerned about the Residence Cards it is going to introduce, diplomats and travel agents have felt.
Referring to the Ministry of Interior’s decision to do away with affixing residence permit (RP) stickers in passports from June 15 and instead issue Residence Cards (RC), travel industry representatives said immigration and check-in staff at international airports generally look for a visa or residence permit that is put in the form of a sticker in the passport but other forms of such documents are also accepted.
The Residence Cards will serve the dual purpose of identity card as well as residence permit.
According to the travel agents, the success of the new system lies in the ability of Qatar authorities in disseminating the information to all concerned across the world. “Initially there may be some confusion but as the airport staff deal with more and more cases, the Residence Cards will be widely accepted without causing hassles to travellers.”
A section of the expatriates said confusion might be caused as some of them would be still carrying passports with the RP stickers after June 15. “As the new Residence Cards will be issued only after the expiry of the current RP, members of a group of travellers to Qatar may be carrying two types of documents to prove their residency in the country,” an expatriate said.
A senior staff at a travel agency said the UK which had issued a similar card was forced to withdraw it some years ago after residents complained about problems they encountered at some airports.
However, senior travel industry professional Farooq Sardar, of Mannai Air Travel, said the new RC would not create any such hassle to Qatar’s expatriates as the message from the local authorities would have already reached immigration and airline offices across the world by June 15.
Sardar said the introduction of the RC was “a well-planned and meticulously executed project implemented in line with a uniform decision arrived at the GCC level”.
The Indian embassy said it had received a communication from Qatar authorities, citing the RC’s technical advantages.
“The introduction of new technology to improve existing processes is always a welcome change, especially when it makes the process easier and convenient,” Philippine Ambassador Wilfredo Santos told Gulf Times.
According to Santos, the Residence Cards will help in streamlining of procedures at the Philippine embassy.
“With the introduction of the new Residence Cards, the passport will only be required for first-time applicants. Because the passport will not be required at the time of renewal (except in case of changing the passport) it will lessen the number of Filipinos rushing to apply for a new passport,” the ambassador said.
He said the new policy would not disrupt current processes or documentation-related work at the embassy.
“As the main identity document of Filipinos abroad is the Philippine passport, the embassy rarely requires presentation of residence permits (soon-to-be Residence Cards) for consular processes,” he stressed.
Santos said the embassy would spread the message about the introduction of the RC among the Filipino community.
“The embassy will issue a circular and post the announcement on the notice board,” Santos said.
The introduction of the Residence Cards from June 15 has been welcomed by the Nepal embassy.
An embassy official described it as “a good move by the Qatar government”.
Nitesh Sapkota, second secretary at the mission, said the decision was unlikely to create any confusion at airports outside Qatar. “We do not think it will create any problem at foreign airports if the information is passed on to authorities concerned and ministries all over the world. I think once the system is implemented and the information is disseminated, the process will be smooth.”
However, the official pointed out that his mission had not received any information from Qatari officials in this regard . “We have seen the report in different media but are still to get official details of the new initiative. Once we get the official information, we will be able to understand the exact details of the decision. ”
It is learnt that most diplomats could travel without their RP stamped on their passports. While travelling, diplomats usually produce their ID cards issued by the host government to officials at airports. - Compiled by Ramesh Mathew, Joseph Varghese and Peter Alagos
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