Foreigners who move to Qatar will have more time to process their residency permits when the new sponsorship law takes effect in three weeks.
Instead of seven days as stipulated in the current law on expatriates’ entry, departure, residence and sponsorship, expats will get 30, a senior official said.
Law No. 21 of 2015 will come into effect on Dec. 13 after being approved by the Emir last October.
It is expected to make it easier for some residents to change jobs and leave the country.
However, the law has drawn mixed reactions.
This is because many people will still need to get No Objection Certificates (NOCs) before they can change jobs and exit permits before leaving Qatar.
Over the last month, officials have been holding briefing sessions with companies to explain how the new law will work in practice. However, few of these details have been shared publicly yet.
But speaking to Al Raya this week, the director of the search and follow-up department at the Ministry of Interior (MOI) did outline some of the changes.
With regards to processing RPs, expats will now have 30 days to start the paperwork, Brig. Abdulla Jabir Al-Libdah said.
This is in accordance with Article 10 of the new law.
Failure to begin the RP process in time could result in a fine of up to QR10,000, Article 40 states.
Chapter five of the new law also includes new rules about transferring jobs while in Qatar.
Under Article 21, expats on an open-ended contract will not need their sponsor’s permission to change jobs once they’ve worked for five years.
And those on fixed-term contracts will no longer need to get an NOC to change jobs once their agreement is finished.
However, any expat must seek the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs’ permission to change jobs.
Currently, an employee needs to wait at least two years to join a new company in Qatar if their existing employer refuses to give an NOC.
It remains unclear whether new contracts will be issued next month or if the rules will apply to existing ones.
Al-Libdah only said the new law would “bring a balance in the relationship between the employer and the worker, according to the mutually binding work contract.”
Leaving the country
The language of the new law omits the word kafeel – sponsor – and instead refers to the employer as “the person who licensed you to come into the country.”
While the exit permit will still exist under the new law, expats will no longer arrange this with their sponsor, but instead must apply to the MOI at least three days before their planned departure.
Nevertheless, the employer still has to give their permission before the expat can leave.
If the exit visa is denied by the employer and/or the ministry, the employee can appeal their case to the Foreign Nationals Exit Grievances
Meanwhile, there’s just eight days to go until the MOI’s amnesty period for undocumented workers comes to an end on Dec. 1.
Al-Libdah said he expected to see a rise in the number of people applying to leave the country over the next week.
The official told Al Raya that uptake for the amnesty “exceeded all expectations, especially at the beginning” of the period, which was announced on Sept. 1.
Expats living here illegally can leave Qatar without penalties if they bring the necessary paperwork to the Search and Follow Up department before Nov. 30.
To take advantage of the amnesty, they must have:
- A valid passport or travel documents from the embassy;
- A plane ticket or booking; and
- An ID card or copy of their entry visa.
The law in Arabic is here, and an unofficial English translation is here.
How are you expecting the new law to affect you? Thoughts?