Moving To Qatar — The Complexities of Attesting Education Certificates

For those wishing to move overseas, things can get confusing quickly when it comes to preparing your paperwork. The complexity of the process varies wildly dependant on where you are planning on relocating to, but one of the countries I advise people on most often is Qatar — especially when it comes to education certificates.

In this article I will cover:

  • How you need to prepare documents for use in Qatar
  • Why things get complicated for Qatari work visas
  • What you’ll need in order to present a higher education award
  • Which type of qualifications won’t be accepted

Why do you need to prepare documents for use overseas?

If you are applying for a residency or a work visa in another country, you will be required to present some paperwork to support your application. What this paperwork comprises of depends on what you are applying for and where you are applying to; each country will have its own unique guidelines for visa requirements.

This an important point to note, as many people I’ve supported through the process in the past have become bogged down by vast complexities and assumed one process fits all, attempting to follow someone else’s advice who are in a completely different position to themselves.

As documents vary so much across the globe, they must go through a process known as attestation. This can also be known as legalisation, verification, authentication and even notarization, though these terms generally all refer to the same process.

Attestation is essentially putting a document through a process where it will receive a series of official verification stamps in order to make it legally recognised outside of it’s country of issue.

These processes help give government departments confidence that they are accepting genuine documents for visa applications. If for example a UK birth certificate was used for a family visa in the UAE, the official in Dubai is unlikely to have the experience needed to determine if the certificate is authentic. This is where attestation comes in.

Why is Qatar strict when it comes to education certificates?

In 2016, there were rumbles felt throughout the Middle Eastern employment sectors. It had been discovered that a huge proportion of the expat workers in Kuwait were there on falsified qualifications.

Although this was primarily reported to be a widespread issue in Kuwait, its Gulf neighbours used this opportunity to take stock of their visa application procedures. Qatar, more than any other state, chose to step up their verification checks on qualifications being presented as part of work and residency visa applications.

New reports as recent as 2020 show that Kuwait is still dealing with this ongoing problem. In fact, in the same year, they happened to uncover a government official who had obtained a high-ranking post on what turned out to be a bogus qualification.

As Qatar wanted to avoid these issues as much as possible, in 2016 they very quickly implemented additional paperwork requirements for anyone wishing to legalise an education award as part of their visa application. These more stringent checks, which take place in the country the award is issued in, seems to have had a positive impact on curbing the possibility of fake qualifications making it into the country.

So what are the additional checks needed for Qatar?

Now bear in mind that the procedure for submitting your documents for legalisation will be impacted by which country you studied your course in. I am a legalisation specialist based in the UK and therefore am writing these guidelines based on the Qatar Embassy’s requirements in London.

These will differ if, for example, you studied your degree in the US or Canada. In those cases, you will need to check directly with the nearest Embassy to enquire as to how they need the information presented.

If you are relocating to Qatar from the UK and as part of your job application are submitting a higher education award of Diploma level 5 or above, you’ll need to supply two additional documents alongside it. These include:

  • A transcript of results, if available
  • A letter from the college or university you studied at

In some cases, a transcript of results is not available for your course. This can be due to records no longer being held if you graduated a long time ago, or if you studied a Master’s or PhD, you may not have had a fixed schedule of study.

If this is the case, you simply need to ensure that this is stated within your verification letter from the college or university.

The letter must include very specific information in order for the Qatari authorities to verify it. Believe me when I say that the information within the letter must be unambiguous and state the required information very clearly and accurately. The format of the letter is less important, as long as the necessary information is contained.

Your college or university must cover the following points:

  • Qualification authenticity
  • Mode (full or part time) and proximate (face to face/distance)
  • Place of study and place where examinations were held
  • Awarded title i.e. Degree (BA or BSc) Masters or PhD
  • Duration of course studied
  • Actual dates of study (exact start and end date)

Which qualifications won’t be accepted by Qatar even if they’re genuine?

Certain awards can’t be legalised by the Qatari authorities even with the supporting documents; these are distance learning qualifications.

Although the UK is becoming more accepting and respectful of the distance learning medium, and rightly so, there are still snags when it comes to using them in certain countries outside of the UK.

Qatar will not accept any online or distance learning qualifications that were not taught in person, on campus through a face to face medium. Some awards which are essentially self-managed, such as PhDs, can be looked at on a case-by-case basis, however.

If you studied with, for example, the Open University, where there is no campus and the majority of learning takes place at home, this will not be accepted for legalisation. But why is this?

As a business we’ve spoken to the Qatari authorities about this subject several times, as we feel it’s devaluing qualifications which should be just as respected as those achieved at brick universities. So far, we haven’t had any success in having them recognised, but I have a theory as to why this could be.

I think it all comes back to the shift that happened in 2016, where there was a crack down on fake degrees being used to apply for work overseas. You would think that anything which is able to pass through the legalisation process with the UK authorities would be genuine, as they check the documents they legalise, right?

Kind of.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will only apply an Apostille to an education award if it’s been issued by a registered body. They don’t perform any background checks on the actual student, the course or the operations of the company itself.

With the “fake degree industry” still strong in the UK, it seems that Qatar are taking precautions to understand the nature and quality of the qualifications entering the state’s workforce. By asking for additional documentation and insisting that the student attended the course in-person for a set length of time, this gives more confidence that the person applying to work in Qatar is qualified for the position they’re taking.

All is not lost if you did study a distance learning degree however, you could still make the move. In some cases, speaking to your employer directly can create a work-around where you have your next highest qualification legalised for your work visa. This isn’t always the case, but is worth exploring if you find yourself in this predicament.

You should now be ready to go!

If you have gathered your documentation, you’re now ready to start the legalisation process. As I mentioned previously, ensure you are checking each step required based on your personal circumstances. If you’re unsure about the process of whether your letter will meet requirements, you can always get the help of a specialist to check things over. It’s always better to be sure before you lose money having to re-process documents down the line!

Digital Marketer and TEFL Legalisation Specialist for Vital Consular