Immigration, visas, and the Hayya Card: My World Cup travel process

Photo courtesy of JonTyson/Unsplash

Part one of this series can be found here

The line at immigration in an airport always feels endless. 

Walking out of the airplane at arrival, and heading towards the immigration line prompts a single thought in my head: “How long is this line going to be?” 

Almost always, it is exactly what I expected. A long, curving line of people from all over the world, the sound of kids complaining and adults frustrated resonating throughout the room. I sigh and get ready to sit there for an hour- if I’m lucky. 

Coming home from Brazil on a random morning in Miami already takes anywhere from 2-4 hours, if not more. I can’t even imagine how long it will be in the Doha airport, joining over a million fans arriving in Qatar to watch the World Cup, the biggest sporting event in the world.

Typically, international travelers would need a special document called a visa to travel to another country. It is usually stamped into the traveler’s passport, and is shown upon arrival at the country. Not all countries require a Visa, but that depends on where you are traveling from. For example, United States citizens can travel to 142 countries without a Visa, only requiring an American passport.

The Hayya Card is a mandatory document (both physical and digital) made specifically for the World Cup month. It is taking the place of a Visa for entry in Qatar during November and December, and is the only document you can enter Qatar with during the World Cup. The Hayya Card is mandatory for everyone, no matter what passport you hold, or why you are entering Qatar. It also grants access to Qatar’s public transportation, including the brand new tram rail built specifically for the cup. 

Obtaining a Hayya Card has a plethora of requirements for one to complete. If you wish to attend a match, you need to apply for a card. International fans are required to submit a scanned copy of their passport, which must be valid for at least three months. Fans who are planning on staying in Qatar overnight are required to have accommodation plans confirmed before receiving a Hayya card. The last requirement is a passport-sized photo of your face, in color and less than 12 months old. Those who want to enter Qatar but not attend matches follow the same requirements, but stadium entry will not be allowed.

The Hayya card was a struggle for me. It was pending for three weeks. The most stressful part was that all my family’s cards had been already approved for weeks, while mine was still waiting. Passport and lodging confirmation were the main problems. We are staying with family friends in Qatar, so they were also required to get a Hayya card to confirm our stay. Every document had to match perfectly with what they put in, and that created a problem.

I am a dual citizen, both American and Brazilian. That means I have both an American and a Brazilian passport. We input my Brazilian passport into the system, while our family friends in Qatar input my American one. FIFA spent time reviewing this, and eventually it was sent back to us to be changed.

The process was completed a few weeks later, and we received our Hayya cards both digitally and physically. We are ready to go to Qatar! Stay tuned for more on-location coverage from the Pirates Hook!

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