MANILA, Philippines – The Qatari government opened its first visa center in the Philippines, making it easier for Filipinos with prospective work in the Gulf state to obtain visas.
The Qatar Visa Center, located at the NU Mall of Asia Building in Pasay City, is expected to facilitate medical tests and the capture of biometric data such as fingerprints and iris scans.
The center, which will be supervised by Qatari government authorities, is also expected to serve as a venue for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to check and sign contracts to avoid illegal recruitment.
According to Qatar Ambassador to the Philippines Ali Ibrahim Al-Malki, the Qatar Visa Center will make it mandatory for OFWs to sign work contracts at the site, where an official will explain terms of employment, wages, work hours, and overseas workers’ rights in Qatar, among others.
Qatar ambassador to the Philippines Ali Ibrahim Al-Malki says over 300,000 Filipinos work in Qatar. He says with the new visa center handled by the Qatari govt, processing and application of visa and employment contracts will be quicker, more transparent @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/IMjyg8EtOF— Sofia Tomacruz (@sofiatomacruz) September 25, 2019
How it works: Processing of all visa applications will be free for OFWs. Employers in Qatar are required to pay for visa fees on behalf of applicants and appointments can only be scheduled once this is complete.
After this, the applicant or employer will need to book an appointment through www.qatarvisacenter.com. Once at the venue, Filipinos will review and sign employment contracts, enroll their biometric data, then undergo medical tests.
Medical tests include a general checkup, blood sampling, and an x-ray scan. Measles-mumps-rubella and diphtheria vaccines will also be given.
Prior to the opening of the Qatar Visa Center in the Philippines, medical tests and capture of biometric data were usually done when OFWs arrived for work in Qatar. Costs for such were also often shouldered by workers themselves, some of whom would take out loans to pay for applications and faced the possibility of being rejected, even after leaving the Philippines.
Qatari officials said its new visa center aims to avoid this and seeks to provide workers greater transparency when it comes to their workplace, in accordance with international labor standards.
The Qatar Visa Center is expected to serve about 350 applicants per day. The center will mainly service OFWs for now, though officials said it will expand to service tourist visas in the future.
Filipinos can also expect results for medical exams and visa applications to be completed within 48 hours.
According to Al-Malki, there are over 300,000 OFWs in Qatar, most of whom work as household service workers or in the construction sector as the country prepares to host the 2022 World Cup. (SNAPSHOT: Qatar’s labor market)
Aside from the Philippines, the Qatari government has opened visa centers in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tunisia. – Rappler.com
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