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Qatar: New Immigration Law Extends Residence Permit Filing Deadline and Eases Restrictions on Changes of Employer

9 Feb

A new immigration law has recently come into effect that changes the rules for the processing of residence permits, the ability to change employers, and ability to obtain exit permissions in Qatar. Most notably, the deadline to file residence permit applications upon arrival in Qatar has been extended to thirty (30) days from the date of arrival. Non-Qatari citizens, including U.S. citizens, on work assignments to Qatar were previously required to file residence permit applications within seven (7) days of arrival or else face fines up to QAR 10,000, approximately US $2,750. The extension provides additional flexibility for foreign nationals assigned to Qatar who need to begin urgent and important work immediately upon arrival.

Qatar has also eliminated the requirement that foreign workers on a fixed employment contract in Qatar obtain a “No Objection Certificate” (NOC) to change employers. Employees working on an open-ended contract will now not need to obtain a NOC after five (5) years of employment. In the past, if an employer refused to issue a NOC, the employee would need to wait a full two (2) years before the employee could be hired by a new employer in Qatar.

Despite recent negative publicity surrounding the perceived forced labor in the construction of the 2022 World Cup stadium, the process remains unchanged for an employee to obtain exit permission from the employer prior to being able to leave the country. However, an employer must grant any leave outlined in the employment contract or in the event of an emergency, and the employee may lodge a complaint with the newly formed Exit Permit Grievances Committee should an employer fail to comply with this requirement.

Qatar is expected to publish Executive Regulations soon to provide further guidance on the new law and amendments summarized above.

Foster will continue to monitor changes to Qatari immigration laws impacting work assignments of foreign nationals and will make information about further developments available in future Immigration Updates© and on our firm’s website at www.fosterglobal.com.