Qatar: Additional Relaxed Immigration And Labor Reforms Announced

Last Updated: 31 October 2019
Article by Fragomen  

At a Glance

  • The Council of Ministers endorsed draft legislation that would further reform the immigration and labor environment in Qatar and would complement the proposals announced earlier this month.
  • Main changes would include the elimination of the exit permit and a higher minimum salary for foreign workers, among other changes.
  • Details on the new legislation, including implementation dates, are expected to be announced in the coming months.

The situation

The Council of Ministers has endorsed draft legislation that would complement last month's proposed reforms and improve the rights and mobility of foreign nationals in Qatar.

A closer look

The key proposals include:

Change Current Rules Impact
  • Elimination of exit permits. The exit permit system would be eliminated for all foreign nationals, including those not subject to Qatari labor law, such as domestic workers.

  • It is also expected that a provision in the law allowing employers to identify up to five percent of their headcount who must obtain their sponsor's pre-approval to depart Qatar would also be eliminated.

  • Companies subject to the labor law may impose a requirement for 5% of their employee population to obtain employer consent prior to leaving Qatar.

  • Foreign nationals employed by companies in the free zones require an exit permit in order to leave Qatar.

  • Domestic workers; workers in government and public institutions; workers employed at sea and in agriculture and casual workers require exit permits to leave the country.

  • Exit permits would most likely be entirely eliminated from the Qatari immigration system, which would grant foreign nationals greater mobility as they will be able to leave without having to obtain approval from their employer.
  • Changing jobs without No-Objection Certificate. Foreign employees who have completed an initial probationary employment period (which has not yet been defined) would be able to change jobs without requiring written consent (known as a No-Objection Certificate or "NOC") from their current employer. If the foreign national changes employers, the new employer would need to reimburse any recruitment costs for obtaining a replacement worker to the original employer. It is not yet clear how this cost will be calculated.
  • In situations where the minimum duration of the employment contract has not been completed, foreign national employees must obtain an NOC from their current employer before they can change jobs. Foreign nationals must also have completed at least 12 months of employment with the current employer before they are able to apply for a sponsorship transfer.
  • Foreign nationals would have greater opportunities to change employers in Qatar, granting them greater autonomy over their career path. Businesses in Qatar would also be able to access a wider talent pool in Qatar.

  • It is not yet clear whether the minimum 12-month employment period for sponsorship transfer would apply and how this requirement would interact with the minimum probationary period.

  • New minimum salary level. A likely higher minimum salary level would be introduced for workers of all nationalities.
  • Currently, the minimum salary requirement to obtain employment status in Qatar is QAR 750 (approximately USD 206) per month.
  • If the minimum salary level was raised, businesses would likely need to ensure foreign nationals are paid the appropriate amount to continue sponsoring them.

Background

The proposals were announced during the recent conference with the International Labour Organization in Doha and were endorsed by the Council of Ministers.

Looking ahead

Qatar is currently considered the second most competitive Arab economy based on the Global Competitiveness Report 2019 and these reforms should help the country maintain this status. Fragomen expects Qatar to continue liberalizing its immigration system, especially as it comes under global scrutiny as it prepares to host the World Cup in 2022. Specifically, new free zones, where companies are taxed less than in other regions of the country, are expected to be implemented within Qatar.

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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