On the last 13th December 2016 a new residency and sponsorship law has come into force in Qatar, with many expectations and speculations concerning the changes of the existing Kafala sponsorship system, replaced with an updated and contract-based system, and the new rules regulating the exit, entry and residency of foreign workers.

Many newspaper articles tried to anticipate the most relevant changes during the past weeks, and several law firms are still waiting the release of the executive regulations, but the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) has recently given an insight about the new law N. 21/2015, which seems to clarify some relevant points of discussion.

  1. Fixed term contracts : Expats will no longer need approval from their existing employer to change jobs if they completed the length of this contract. However, it is required that workers in Fixed term agreements provide written notice to their employer before the contract expires, advising their sponsor of the intention to change jobs at the end of their contract. The duration of this notice period is indicated in the labor contract signed by each employee.
  2. Open term contracts: Expats in open-ended contracts will be able to change jobs without their existing employer’s permission as well, provided that they have completed a five-years service period.However, it is still required a written notice to the employer prior to changing job.

    The above means that employees who do not complete five years of service period can change their sponsor only with the approval of their existing employers (NOC), unless the workers can demonstrate they have been exploited or mistreated by their employers, then the law gives them the right to demand to transfer the employment.

    All expatriates who wish to change jobs will always need to get the approval of the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs prior to taking up their new employment.

    The service period will be calculated from the day that the employees started to work for their last employer, including all days of employment accumulated prior to the implementation of this new law.
    This refutes the news circulated about the necessity to issue new employment contracts after the approval of this new law.

  3. Exit Permit process: The procedure concerning the Exit Permit requests remained almost the same as previously.
    When applying for an Exit Permit, for annual leave or an emergency, the workers will have to submit their application in writing to the employer, as per the terms of their employment contracts.
    Then will be the employer to process the request immediately.In some cases, if the employer rejects this request, expats will be able to apply directly to the Exit Permit Grievances Committee, through an e-government services program, or in person at government service complexes and police stations throughout Qatar. Decisions on all Exit Permit requests will be taken within 72 hours of its receipt.
    The Exit Permit Grievances Committee will conduct an immediate background check of the applicant to ensure that no active or pending criminal proceedings, or financial claims, are currently against the worker.

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