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QATAR – New Sponsorship Law takes Effect

A new sponsorship law which came into effect at the end of last year (Law No.21 of 2015) changes the rules for the processing of residence permits, changing jobs, and obtaining exit permission. Law No.1 of 2017, which amends some of the provisions of Law No.21 of 2015, was issued at the beginning of January.

However, as of 2 February 2017, Executive Regulations clarifying the new law have not been published.

Below is a summary of the provisions of the new law and amendments:

Residency Permit Processing Times

Under the new law, foreign nationals moving to Qatar will now have 30 days to process their residency permits, rather than the previous deadline of seven days.  However, foreign nationals who do not begin the process within this time will be subject to a fine of up to QAR10,000.

Transferring Jobs

Previously, foreign nationals had to request a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from their sponsor before they could change employment. Should their sponsor refuse to issue an NOC, the employee would have to wait for a period of two years before they could join a new company. Under the new law, any foreign national on an open-ended contract will no longer need an NOC from their sponsor once they have completed five years of service. Foreign nationals on a fixed-term contract will no longer need an NOC from their sponsor once their agreement has finished.

Instead, all foreign nationals will have to seek the permission of the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) to change employment. Those on a fixed-term contract are required to give notice 30 days’ notice before their contract ends. Those on an open-ended contract are required to give 30 days’ notice if they have been employed for five years, and 60 days’ notice if they have been employed for more than five years. Foreign nationals over the age of 60 years are not permitted to seek a job change. The above terms and conditions are meant for the private sector only.

Leaving the Country

The process to obtain an exit visa has remained unchanged. Law 21 from December stated that an automated system was to be set up for granting exit permits directly to foreign nationals. However, Law No.1 of January 2017 amends Law 21 and requires foreign national employees to seek permission from their employer in Qatar to exit the country for holiday purposes, emergencies, or permanently.

Employers can approve exit permits electronically instantly through the Metrash2 app, MOI’s website or Hukoomi. The exit permit duration can now be chosen (i.e. issued for 1 day up to 1 year) and all exit visas are now for multiple exit and re-entry. Exit permits are now granted for free and no paper receipt is issued.

The employer is compelled to approve any leave owing to the employee which is stated in the contract between them. The employer is also liable to grant leave to his employee in the event of emergencies. Should an employer refuse a request to exit the country the employee is entitled to lodge a complaint with the new Exit Permit Grievances Committee, which was set up in accordance with Law No.21 of 2015. The committee has already received over 500 applications for exit permission.

Action Items

  • Note the changes to the rules for the processing of residence permits, changing jobs, and obtaining exit permission;
  • Note that further amendments to the new sponsorship law may be implemented by the Executive Regulation due to be published soon.

This news alert was prepared using information provided by FutureGate Business Services, Global Relocation Consultants and Newland Chase.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2017 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.