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British Embassy in the UAE

Passport advice

In an effort to cut down on the number of emergency travel documents it issues each year, the British Embassy in the UAE has come up with a series of comic strips to remind residents to safeguard their passports.

The comics illustrate various ways one can ruin or lose their passport, and are likely to be helpful to Qatar residents, too.

“You wouldn’t believe the stories we hear about lost and damaged passports,” the embassy said in a statement.

British Embassy in the UAE

Passport advice

“Our embassies in the Gulf issued over 230 Emergency Travel Documents in 2016. These are not cheap and they can cause a number of issues for the person needing them.”

According to the UK Foreign Office’s website, it can cost up to £100 to replace a lost/stolen passport, and take up to six weeks to process.

Passport fails

Some of the most common passport stories include people accidentally washing them with clothes, losing track of them while on vacation or keeping the documents in reach of a dog or baby.

Cognizant of the long processing times, the comics also remind residents to plan ahead.

British Embassy in the UAE

Passport advice

For example, children’s passports are only good for five years, so if families don’t want to miss their vacations, they should make sure to renew these documents first.

And some countries don’t allow in visitors whose passports are due to expire soon.

Finally, the embassy points out that police reports must be filed before a request for emergency travel documents (ETDs) can be made.

And if you lost your passport while out of the Gulf, you may not be allowed into GCC countries with just your ETDs.

Have you ever experienced a passport fail? Thoughts?

Al-Rayah Driving School/Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Many European and Australian residents are finding it harder to get a driver’s license in Qatar after the government tightened requirements last month.

These expats must now take a driver’s test and/or classes to get a license, according to several embassies that spoke to Doha News.

Previously, they only had to present the license they held in their home countries and take an eye test.

The change took effect on Jan. 1, but was not officially announced.

Who’s affected

However, officials from the British, French, Dutch, Australian and German embassies have confirmed to Doha News that the rules for their nationals have changed.

These residents are now required to pass a theory and practical driving test to qualify for a Qatar driving license.

Some expats have also told Doha News that driving schools have recently advised them of changes.

However, the new rules only apply to people who do not yet have Qatar driver’s licenses. Renewals of existing licenses do not appear to be affected.

Unannounced changes

It is unclear why the rules were tightened, but the move comes amid several other efforts to reduce the number of drivers on Qatar’s roads.

For example, a mandatory driving test was rolled out for US citizens in 2009.

Gulf Driving School

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

A spokesperson from the British Embassy told Doha News that it was “liaising with local authorities to establish the reasons for the change.”

She added:

“We understand the new requirements apply to all nationalities previously able to exchange without a test, however license-holders should check with the Traffic Department.”

In the past, GCC citizens were also able to exchange their licenses without a test in Qatar, and it remains unclear whether this new ruling applies to them.

The UAE Embassy has not yet responded to a request for comment.

License restrictions

Qatar’s population has more than doubled in the past 10 years, putting a strain on its infrastructure and causing traffic congestion at peak hours.

Authorities have tackled this problem in a variety of ways.

Muhammad Kamran Qureshi/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For example, the government has barred expats working in some 240 professions from obtaining licenses.

These include pharmacy assistants, accounting technicians, photographer’s assistants, sailors and skilled tradesmen such as plasterers and electricians.

And last year, authorities announced that expats who held licenses issued in other GCC countries would no longer be able to directly exchange them in Qatar.

Also in 2016, the government decided that nationals from many African and Asian countries would now need to take driving lessons before sitting for a driver’s test.

Sebastian Wilke/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Recently released government statistics show that all of these restrictions may be having some effect.

There were nearly 30 percent fewer new vehicles registered in Qatar in December 2016 than in December 2015.

Meanwhile, transfers of ownership – which reflect the state of the second-hand car market – were down just over 4 percent year-on-year.

Thoughts?

Sanjiban Ghosh/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

With reporting from Victoria Scott

The British government has updated its travel advice for Qatar this week, saying terrorist attacks in the country are now “likely” and “could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.”

The same information has been posted on the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice pages for the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

It said that “terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region,” adding:

“These include references to attacks on western interests, including residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests as well as crowded places, including restaurants, hotels, beaches, shopping centres and mosques.

You should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places. Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations.”

However, this does not mean the UK has any knowledge of specific threats to Qatar or other nations.

A spokesperson for the British Embassy in Qatar told Doha News that the “change has been made as part of a global review of the way we describe terrorism threats in travel advice.”

She added, “We are replacing the previous level system with more detailed information for each country. Our priority remains the safety of British nationals overseas.”

‘Routine measure’

Qatar officials have not commented on the warning, but Kuwait’s news agency on Sunday called the change “a routine measure.”

KUNA added that its interior ministry has not received any information from the UK about potential threats this week.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Before Jan. 20, the FCO’s online travel advice for Qatar stated that its nationals are at a “general” risk of potential attacks.

The threat level in Doha had been raised in November, but no specific reason was given for this.

However, even with the updated advice, Qatar appears to be less at risk of an attack than the UK itself.

According to British security service MI5, the threat level for international terrorism in the UK is considered “severe.”

Thoughts?