Last Thursday we arrived at HIA with plenty of time for an 8.15am flight to Sharjah.
Although there were a handful of passengers, we zigzagged down the long barriered line to reach the immigration desk prior to security. I presented my passport. “You have no exit permit”, I was told. “Yes I do”, I replied showing the one I had printed from a work email. “It’s not valid” he said.
So I had to leave the desk and head back out into the terminal to another desk. He checked my passport in the computer. “You have no exit permit”. I showed the print-out. He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a couple of similar documents… “These are not valid either”, he said.
Until 2 March I had an annual exit permit. I had applied for its renewal about six weeks ago. In the meantime we had arranged our short break in the UAE. In the absence of a renewed annual permit, I applied for a single exit permit which was approved – my print-out. A few days later the annual permit was approved, to take effect once the current one expired.
The Ministry of the Interior have an efficient system where by entering your Qatar ID number, you can see the status of you exit permission. After 2 March, it said I didn’t have an annual permit but I assumed the single one I had printed and showed to the immigration official would get me out of the country… but I was clearly mistaken.
I know this sort of problem had happened to work colleagues before, and can usually be quickly corrected. But it was 6.15am, way before anyone would arrive in the office and the departure gate would close at 7.50am.
I sent emails to all the cc recipients of my ‘not valid’ exit permit email explaining the predicament. I sent sms messages to any of my colleagues who might know the mobile number of the guy responsible for managing exit permits. We waited. About 15 minutes later I received a call from him. He said he would sort it out, explaining there appeared to be some confusion as government records suggested that I was already out of the country.
Twenty minutes later, he phoned back telling me the annual permit was now in place. I checked on my phone.
This time we went under the barriers to avoid walking back and forth of the full length of the immigration line, and got through to departures with no further problems.