- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Qatar Guide (PDF)
Shipping goods to Qatar may not always be the smoothest of rides. Though many items are permitted, some of which are even tax-exempt, Qatar nevertheless has strict customs laws.
The General Authority of Customs oversees and regulates the importing and exporting of all goods. Their official website and its Al-Nadeeb portal are key resources for advice on customs regulations, including what is allowed or prohibited, related tariffs, and exemptions on shipping and removals.
Be sure about shipping to Qatar
Expats moving to Qatar should think carefully about what they need to ship to the emirate, as moving large quantities may not be worth the time, money and customs headaches. Most accommodation comes fully furnished and additional furniture and appliances can always be purchased in the country.
Inventory and documentation
When shipping goods, a clear inventory detailing each item is necessary. Be sure to explicitly declare all items, including currency and precious metals and stones. If an expat fails to comply or declare all their goods, they may face strict penalties, including heavy fines, confiscation of goods and even jail time.
We also recommend that expats make copies of all documents and keep them on file to facilitate the import and export process.
Hiring shipping and removals companies in Qatar
Packing up and having goods shipped over can seem complicated and involves several parties, including the packer, an overseas shipper, a clearing agent, and companies specialising in storage, delivery and unpacking.
We recommend using an accredited and reputable shipping company that includes insurance, and it might be best to consider a relocation company. If expats do want to import products into Qatar, these professional consultants can ease the process.
Duties, processing and handling fees add up, and we urge expats who plan to work in Qatar to negotiate a shipping allowance as part of their contract.
Shipping household items to Qatar
Fortunately, some categories are exempt from import taxes. These include personal effects and household items, as well as items cleared for designated ‘free zones’.
If importing personal and household items, expats must provide proof of their residence visa, valid for at least one year, and potentially a letter from their sponsor indicating that these goods are not for resale. Usually, these items are only exempt for expats moving to the country for the first time.
Otherwise, most items shipped into Qatar face customs duties and this is usually charged per unit or as a percentage of the value of the goods. Duties for general cargo are around five percent.
Shipping vehicles to Qatar
One of the best ways of getting around in Doha is by driving, and many expats choose to own a vehicle or have one provided by their company. In some cases, expats may want to buy a car or ship one over from abroad.
Car models older than five years are not allowed to be imported, and newer models require a clearance certificate from the country of export as well as an invoice detailing the car’s value.
Private motor vehicles must meet multiple standards, so it’s critical to check the most updated regulations on the Qatari customs website. In some cases, cars are only granted temporary admission for three or six months, potentially renewable with a bank guarantee or deposit. Insurance is essential.
Shipping small-scale items to Qatar
There are a few reliable options for expats shipping small amounts of inventory or simple items such as documents, and most major logistics companies and couriers, such as DHL, FedEx, Aramex and UPS deliver to Qatar from abroad. Note that Qatar does not use a formal postal or zip code system but residents normally use '00000' if required.
While narcotics and illegal drugs are prohibited, small amounts of legal personal medicine can be brought into Qatar. These require a prescription and can't exceed an amount deemed 'fit for personal use' by customs officials. This process may cause delays in shipments.
That said, the country has an excellent healthcare system and certain medicines may be readily available in pharmacies and do not need to be brought in.
There is an extensive list of goods prohibited from being imported into Qatar, including flammable goods, radioactive materials, ammunition and explosives, narcotics, or goods from economically boycotted countries.
The full list is available on the Qatari customs website. Note that customs officials at ports of entry usually have the final say on what can be imported or exported, and decisions can be made at their discretion.