Requirements for joining an international school

DEC 1, 2022

Learn in advance all the paperwork required to join an international school in Qatar

The information in this article is supplied for parents in good faith. It is, to the best of our knowledge, correct at the time of publication. All rules are subject to change, and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education together with other relevant government departments remain the ultimate authority in these matters. AWIS cannot be held liable for the consequences of any error or omissions in this article.

Admissions Process

All schools administer their own application and admissions process, so requirements will differ from school-to-school.

However, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Qatar (MoEHE) require all international schools to upload details of students and their parents to a central system. They require us to collect some very specific documentation from parents, before a new student is allowed in to school.

The purpose of this article is to ensure parents are aware in advance of these requirements. They are advised to gather all necessary documentation before leaving their home country (including having documents attested, where required).

Parents should have realistic expectations of the timeline between arriving in Qatar and their children being able to attend school. Your future employer in Qatar should be able to assist you with this.

The information below is provided as a simple list, for ease of reference:

A: Before Leaving Home

1. Most Recent School Report:

If a student has attended a school previously (in Year 1 or above), be sure to bring a copy of their latest school report with you. If this report is from outside Qatar, it must be attested in exactly the same process you will be required to follow for having your educational qualifications attested. For example, in the UK this would require that the report is:

  • signed and stamped by the school
  • attested by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • stamped by the Qatar Embassy in London

This can be a slow (and expensive) process, so allow plenty of time before departure. There are various agents who can assist with the process, and your new employer in Qatar should be able to offer guidance.

2. Immunisation Record

Schools will ask for a copy of your child's immunisation record. Make sure you bring this with you, although (unlike the school report) it does not currently have to be officially certified.

3. Birth Certificate

As above, be sure to bring birth certificates of the children with you.

B: On Arrival in Qatar

1. Complete the Attestation Process

The process for having your required paperwork attested needs to be completed once you arrive in Qatar. Your employer in Qatar will have made clear to you before leaving your home country exactly what paperwork is required (it is typically the degree certificate and degree transcript of the employee, but may include other documents).

Once in Qatar, these documents have to be submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Doha to be stamped (qualifications also have to be translated in to Arabic). Some employers will ask you to do this yourself, while many will organise this on your behalf.

If travelling with children aged 7+, it is important to include the attested copy of their most recent school report (see item A1 above) is included in the bundle of documents to go to MoFA.

2. Qatar ID

On arrival in Qatar, your employer will apply for residence permits for the whole family. The end result is each family member being issued a Qatar ID. The normal process is to first apply for the employee. Then, only once the Qatar ID of the employee has been received, the company starts the process for the other family members.

Ensure you understand from your employer in Qatar how long they expect this process to take. Timings do vary considerably, and any delays will prevent your children starting at school.

3. Letter of Employment

Schools are required to hold a Letter of Employment on file for a parent of each student we register. This is a letter, written by the employer, stating that the child's sponsor (usually one of the parents), is in full time employment.

This letter is required regardless of whether the school fees will be paid by the employer or the parents.

It is a standard requirement for all students entering international schools in Qatar, so it is likely your employer will have a standard template available.

4. Medical Report

Students joining Foundation Stage or Year 1 are required to submit a "Fit to Join" Certificate (School Entry Health Assessment Certificate). This certificate can only be issued by Government Health Centres across Qatar that fall under the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC). This entails a brief physician's examination, dental checkup, and a blood test.

Call 107 (from within Qatar) to book an appointment. Please note that you will be asked to provide the child's health card number. You will then be able to choose a convenient date and time from the available time slots.

On the day of the appointment, and after the physician's assessment is completed, you may collect the "Fit to Join School" certificate and the student's health record from the main reception of the health centre. The whole process takes around two hours.

C: Choosing and Applying to a School

A search on Google will quickly confirm that Qatar has a wide range of international schools available, covering many different curricula and price points.

Selecting the one that best fits your needs is deeply personal. However, do remember to consider:

  • travel time from your house (or work). Peak Doha traffic can be problematic!
  • reputation and word of mouth. There are multiple online forums for expat mums and new arrivals to Qatar, where the alternatives are endlessly discussed.
  • school ethos and culture are important. Visit your shortlisted schools to form your own view, before committing.
  • not all "international schools" are really international, and not all "British curriculum schools" follow a curriculum people from the UK would recognise as British. Be sceptical!

The application process varies from school-to-school, so you need to contact each of them or research their websites. It typically entails an interview and/or assessment test, carried out on the school site. Some schools will make special arrangements for children not yet in the country.

The admissions process typically starts in January/February each year, with the majority completed by June, ready for the following academic (which typically starts in mid to late August).

Most schools continue to accept new students after the close of the main admissions process, and in to the academic year. However, the better schools will typically have very limited places available (specific year groups). If you know your children will not be in Qatar, with all the required paperwork completed, until after the main school admissions process is completed, you should consider opening a dialogue with a few potential schools before you arrive in Doha.

Finally, be aware that the MoEHE often locks their student database midway through the academic year. This makes it very difficult for any international schools to accept new students after this cut-off, as we have to apply to MoEHE for special dispensation on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately, the cut-off date varies from year-to-year, but is typically around March.

Document Checklist

By way of example, the list of documents we require here at AWIS before a student can start school is included below. Note that they are not all required when first applying: many can be deferred until after the student has been assessed and a firm offer of a place has been accepted.

  • Completed AWIS Application Form, including signed Consent Form
  • Qatar ID of student
  • Passport of student
  • Qatar ID of both parents
  • 2 x passport photos of the student (or a digital image)
  • Immunisation record of the student
  • Attested copy of most recent school report (if joining from outside Qatar, in Year 1 or above)
  • Medical report (FS and Year 1 only)
  • Letter of employment from parent's employer