Qatar: New Short-Term Work Visa, Reduced Government Fees And Other Reforms Forthcoming

Last Updated: 25 October 2019
Article by Fragomen  

At a Glance

The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Administrative Development Labor and Social Affairs in Qatar announced a series of proposed reforms aimed at attracting investment in Qatar. Specifically, these reforms would:

  • introduce a Temporary Work Visa;
  • allow eligible male dependents to work without changing sponsorship; and
  • reduce government fees for processing immigration applications electronically.

The ministries have not announced when the reforms would be reviewed and/or adopted.

The situation

The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Administrative Development Labor and Social Affairs in Qatar announced a series of proposed reforms aimed at attracting investment to Qatar.

A closer look

Details of the proposed reforms include the following:

  • New Temporary Work Visa. A new Temporary Work Visa would be issued to foreign nationals in select professions which would allow companies to sponsor workers to undertake urgent tasks and short-term or seasonal work. The only current options are either the long-term work visa, which can take 14-109 days to process in addition to the process of applying for a block visa if the employer does not already have one, or the short-term Business Visa, which requires a sponsor.
    • Forthcoming details. The exact terms and conditions of the new visa, including eligibility requirements, need for a block visa, maximum validity and cost, are yet to be announced.
    • Impact. Although the specific details remain to be seen, the new Temporary Work Visa should provide a more streamlined path for short-term or urgent work in Qatar, rather than undergoing a more onerous employment visa process. Many companies currently rely on obtaining a Business Visa (which allows hands-on work in Qatar) for individuals undertaking short-term work, but these are often granted on a single-entry basis and still require a sponsor.
  • Employment of dependents. Male children (defined as those who have not yet completed university-level studies and are under the age of 25) whose residency is based on the sponsorship of their parents would be able to obtain work authorization from an employer in the private sector without changing sponsorship from the parent to an employer. The government has not yet announced whether this new provision would extend to male spouses of foreign nationals.
    • Current rules. Male dependents are currently not allowed to work under dependent status. In order to obtain work authorization, male dependents must give up this status and obtain work and residency status through an employer. Female dependents, however, are eligible for this split employment and residency status.
    • Impact. The government would be able to reduce the number of foreign workers recruited from abroad and enable employers to utilize the pool of candidates in Qatar.
  • Reduced government fees. The MOI would discount its fees by 20% for immigration applications submitted through its online portal and mobile application.
    • Impact. The decreased fees would encourage employers and foreign nationals to apply online, which should decrease processing times and reduce visits to various government agencies.

Background

  • Middle East and North Africa short-term work authorization. By introducing a short-term work authorization visa, Qatar would become one of many countries in the region, including some Gulf Cooperation Council countries, to have such a program.
  • Eased requirements. Qatar has taken numerous steps in the past year to ease employment regulations for foreign nationals, including abolishing exit permits for the majority of employees and allowing foreign nationals to travel internationally during the work visa renewal process.

Looking ahead

The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Administrative Development Labor and Social Affairs will need to convert the proposed reforms into decrees and executive regulations before the rules are implemented. It is not clear when this will occur.

Qatar is currently considered the second most competitive Arab economy based on the Global Competitiveness Report 2019 and the proposed legislative changes should help the country maintain this status. The changes are expected to make the Qatari labor market more attractive for existing businesses and potential investors who would benefit from reduced costs of recruitment and the option to deploy foreign nationals on a short-term basis.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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