As part of Qatar’s ongoing efforts to introduce legislative reforms, the Amir, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, signed two new laws which will abolish exit permits for most migrant workers, and introduce an opportunity for qualifying expatriates to apply for permanent residency in Qatar.

Qatar is home to over 2.5 million people of which at least 70% are expatriates. Thousands of these expatriates have lived in the country for a decade or more, bringing their families from home to live with them, while others have created families during their time here. 

The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA), under the patronage of The Amir, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani signed new laws to allow majority of the expatriates and migrant workers to apply for permanent residency in Qatar as well as travel in and out of the country without an exit permit.

Exit Permit

According to the 2015 expatriate residency law (Law No 21 of 2015) all expatriate residents of Qatar are required to obtain an exit permit from their sponsor when exiting the country. However, Law No 13 of 2018 (Amending Law), one of the two new laws signed by the Amir, significantly amends certain provisions of the 2015 residency law. 

Effective starting from October last year, the Amending Law will allow most migrant workers covered by the Labour Law to leave the country without having to obtain an exit permit. However, this Amended Law is not applicable to domestic workers, employees of government entities and semi-governmental organisations, embassy employees, and those working in the military. Qatar already has a law on domestic workers and has recently enacted legislation granting these workers rights similar to those in the Labour Law. 

According to the Amending Law employers in Qatar can still submit names of workers for whom a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) would be required before granting them permission to leave the country, according to justifications based on the nature of the work.  The permissible number of such employees may not exceed 5% of the employer’s total workforce.

The new law was welcomed by the International Organization for Labour (ILO), referring to it as a ‘huge step’.

In September 2018, MADLSA announced that employers may submit the names of employees who will continue to require exit pemits. Companies need to upload the list of such employees on the MADLSA website. MADLSA will then move those lists to the Ministry of Interior. Employers are not required to seek an employee’s consent prior to including a name on the list. 

The Expat Exit Grievance Committee will remain in place to accept complaints from workers prevented from leaving the country for any reason.

Permanent Residency Permit

Further, HH The Amir recently issued Law No 10 of 2018 (PRP Law) on permanent residency permit (PRP).

According to the PRP Law, expatriates could obtain a Qatari PRP under certain rules and conditions. To obtain a PRP, an expatriate in Qatar should complete 20 years in the country on a legal ordinary residency permit regardless if he or she is born abroad. For those born in Qatar, he or she is required to complete 10 years of residency. 

Under the PRP Law, the continuation of the residency should not be interrupted by staying outside Qatar for more than 60 days in a year, and in all cases the duration of stay out of the country will be deducted from the balance of the residency duration in Qatar. If the applicant leaves Qatar after applying for a PRP for more than six months in a row, the Minister of Interior has the right to disqualify his previous residency duration in the country.

The applicant should have enough income to cover his or her expenditures as well as for their family. A cabinet decision will specify the minimum income of the applicant and exceptional cases. 

Good conduct and reputation will be considered. He or she should not have previously been convicted of a dishonourable offence, unless rehabilitated in accordance with the law.

The applicant should have sufficient knowledge of the Arabic language. The PRP Law stipulates that certain categories of expatriates, such as children of a Qatari woman married to a non-Qatari man, a non-Qatari husband of a Qatari woman, an expatriate wife of a Qatari citizen, and children of Qataris with naturalisation can obtain a PRP. In addition, people with special capabilities whose services are needed for the state are also eligible.

A PRP will not be given to more than 100 people per year. It is permitted to increase the number of eligible applicants for a PRP after approval from HH The Amir, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Interior, which will be different in number every year. 

As per the provisions of the newly amended Law No 21 of 2015, the holder of a PRP does not require any permission for leaving or returning to the country. 

A PRP holder will benefit from health services in public hospitals and education in government institutions as per the terms and conditions to be issued by the Cabinet. The spouse and children (up to the age 18) of a PRP holder will be able enjoy the same privileges of the PRP holder in regards to residency, health and education. The Minister of Interior is allowed to exclude the male children of PRP holders who could not complete their university qualification by the age of 25 and unmarried female children aged 25 or above.

PRP holders can invest in the activities of national economic sectors, which will be specified by the Cabinet, without a Qatari partner, to establish a company as per the provisions of the law for regulating commercial companies. The PRP holder can own residential properties and invest in Al Manatiq as per the rules and regulations to be specified by a Cabinet decision.

A decision will be issued by the Minister of Interior to specify the fees for applying for a PRP, granting a PRP ID and its validity.

The Minister of Interior can cancel a PRP and withdraw the ID from the holder if he fails to meet the terms and conditions stipulated in the PRP Law or if it is in the public interest to do so. The Minister of Interior will issue necessary decisions to implement the provisions of the PRP Law. All concerned authorities are required to implement this law. 

The Ministry of Interior will set up a permanent committee called the Committee for Granting Permanent Residency Permit to look into the application, as per the provisions of the new law. The permanent committee will submit its recommendations to the Minister of Interior who will take appropriate decision about the applications.

Note: The new laws are subject to change and are yet to be completely finalised.

Author: Ola Diab

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