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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The (narrow) path to Qatari citizenship

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For most expats in Qatar, renewing residency permits regularly is a fact of life – regardless of whether one has lived in the country for several years or decades.

Qatar has no legal provisions that allow foreigners to become permanent residents, and no obvious process to apply for citizenship.

However, a locally-based researcher has uncovered clauses in the country’s laws that allow foreigners to apply to become Qatari nationals.

Zahra Babar of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar recently published one of the first academic papers on citizenship in Qatar, titled The Cost of Belonging.

In the paper, Babar, associate director for research at Georgetown’s Center for International and Regional Studies, documented the stringent prerequisites for naturalized Qataris, which include:

  • Residing in Qatar for 25 successive years, and not resided outside the country for more than two consecutive months during any one of those 25 years;
  • Living in Qatar legally during the duration of that period;
  • Having a sufficient means of income generation;
  • Maintaining a good reputation, demonstrating good behavior and not committing any criminal act or act of “moral turpitude;” and
  • Having a fair command of the Arabic language.

Speaking to Doha News, Babar said:

“It’s a really sensitive issue. Granting citizenship to foreigners is not something which is popular, particularly given there is such a concern about the minoritization of the local population.”

While the legal requirements have been published publicly, how one actually goes about applying for citizenship remains unclear. Babar said she was unable to find any forms or application process in her research.

Small group

The number of naturalized Qatari citizens is also unknown. However, the group is likely to be small, as the law stipulates that a maximum of 50 foreigners may be granted citizenship through naturalization each year.

Prior to 2005, when these provisions were approved, foreigners were granted citizenship solely at the Emir’s discretion, with no documented guidelines.

Babar said international organizations typically pressure countries to have some formal path for naturalization – even if it is highly restrictive – in writing, which is one likely reason for the law.

A second reason, she suggested, is to offer a path toward citizenship for the spouses and children of Qataris.

Currently, a child born to a Qatari mother and a non-Qatari father does not receive citizenship.

Local critics and international human rights organizations have urged the country to change the law to become more inclusive, most recently during Qatar’s periodic review at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In a written response, Qatar’s delegation rejected the recommendation.

“It’s just one of the genderized elements of the law here … citizenship is just something that you acquire through your father,” Babar said.

Tiered citizenship

While both may be legally Qatari, naturalized and native-born citizens are not treated equally under the law.

Babar said it is her understanding that naturalized citizens are not automatically entitled to many economic benefits provided by the state. In Qatar, nationals usually receive preferential access to public-sector employment, food and energy subsidies, housing allotments and free education.

Beyond what’s written in the law, there are likely further subcategories of foreign-born citizens, Babar said. For example, she said it is unlikely that the foreign-born athletes who join Qatar’s national teams have rights comparable to native-born citizens.

The generosity of Qatar’s welfare state for nationals means that extending citizenship to large numbers of foreigners would be a significant financial drain on the country’s coffers, Babar noted.

In her paper, she argued that this is one of the primary reasons for Qatar’s highly restrictive citizenship laws.

Another factor is the makeup of the country’s population, which is roughly 88 percent expats, according to the UN. Limiting citizenship, Babar writes, is one way the country attempts to preserve its cultural identity:

“There is a great fear expressed by nationals that the presence of so many (foreign residents) threatens the cultural authenticity and social fabric of Qatar.

These fears have led to an across-the-board agreement that migrants may only be allowed to spend limited periods of time within the country, and the existing employee-sponsorship system is structured to bind foreign workers to their employers for a predetermined contractual period.”

Permanent residents

While there is no indication that Qatar will relax its citizenship laws in the near future, there have been discussions about creating a new immigration category that would allow foreigners to remain in the country on a more permanent basis.

Babar cites a recommendation of the country’s Permanent Population Committee in 2011 to give highly skilled workers more residency rights as a ways of enticing key professionals to stay in the country for longer periods.

More recently, others have argued that creating a class of permanent residents would provide Qatar with a solid base of skilled residents who have a vested interest in the further development of their current home.

However, there have been few public signs that the government has been considering such a proposal in the last couple of years.

Here’s a copy of Babar’s full report:

[scribd id=241732171 key=key-tfBwiutXBokZ8i2Nlt2H mode=scroll]

Thoughts?

64 COMMENTS

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Farhan Khurshid
6 years ago

Live for 25 consecutive years ??? then may be the application process will take another 25 years; if successful, may be the citizenship will be granted after 25 more years.. Good luck …

Ali
Ali
6 years ago

In other words it’s a NO

Omar Alansari
Omar Alansari
6 years ago

it’s actually a NO in a polite way!

Cerebus
Cerebus
6 years ago

The more interesting facet of this piece is not the citizenship route or lack thereof, but the prospect of attaining a permanent residence status, which is much different than being a citizen. This would be a good move as it would provide those that want to stay here on a long term basis a foundation to build a home and family around rather than just taking the money they earn and leaving. Tax structures, business ownership, the ability to buy land, all of these could be centered around this idea. There could exist distinct components in the legal system to support both elements. Limiting non-citizens to purchasing only 1 or 2 properties for a primary residence for example, a taxation of the non-citizen income to support the public services and infrastructure, lending and finance implications, the ability to move between employers, which in some cases is could be a preferred choice of just packing up and leaving. It would open the door to many ways of enhancing the lives of residents here without taking the cultural identity away from the Qatari nationals.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

They forgot No. 7 which is “The ability to win an Olympic or World Championship athletics medal or become a key member of any other Qatari national sports team. The lengthy process from application to approval takes approximately 25 minutes. Naturalisation is however immediately revoked on failure and is accompanied by forced ejection from Qatar.

BBCA
BBCA
6 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

LOL! That’s “F’ed” up!

Guest
Guest
6 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

Making money isn’t hard in itself… What’s hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one’s life to. Hire and Fire will not work. Why don’t Qatar invest in building up the qatari Athletes ? whats the need to hire and naturalise talents from international market ? If thats the way qatari minds play by the game, its shameful… lets fix naturalization process. there would be hundreds and thousands of talented expat youth who can be tapped locally in qatar. and thats the only path towards long term development and building strong foundations for developing countries like qatar.

Anood
Anood
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

Well Said… Supperb…

Ali
Ali
6 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

I think Qatar has won plenty of times indirectly whenever Barcelona was victorious under the Qatari sponsorship. Plus the recent victory of Qatar at the GCC cup!
Plus Qatar sees bigger picture, they tend to host the events instead of being part of it. Why be the athlete when you can run the show?

MN
MN
6 years ago

Qatar will always be a “bus stop” for foreigners. That’s probably how the government wants it, and it’s not about to change.

osamaalassiry
osamaalassiry
6 years ago

The law 38/2005 is quite clear, even the translation is almost accurate:

http://www.almeezan.qa/LawView.aspx?opt&LawID=2591&language=en

Those are 4 conditions, it’s still up to the emir to choose to grant it or not.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  osamaalassiry

That seems very clear to me. I don’t understand what the article is about, probably complaining in a roundabout way why they are not granted citizenship.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Did you catch this bit 😉
“Those born in Qatar to unknown parents shall also be deemed to be a naturalised Qatari. Foundlings shall be considered as born in Qatar unless proven otherwise.”

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Yes I saw that bit but I was wondering how it would work in practise. Do you have a kid in secret and then leave it at a hospital and then run away? Therefore it becomes qatari and is looked after by the state.

I can’t see that working though. If it was an ethnic Indian kid I can see them handing it over to the embassy and saying this is one of yours!

Shabina921
Shabina921
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Orphans in Qatar cared for by Dhreima do get citizenship, I believe…

Anood
Anood
6 years ago
Reply to  osamaalassiry

Its been 25 years i know family X who has applied for citizenhip….the family X has been in Qatar for more than 50 years…please act on it….
Family X has other qatari relatives who were married to qatari nationals….Kindly provide citizenship to Family X

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Anood

I don’t think Osama is the Emir. Last time I looked it was Sheik Tammin, so I don’t think Osama has the power to grant your wish.

Abdul Rehman
Abdul Rehman
6 years ago
Reply to  Anood

Let it be Family XYZ, and to all those…. holding travel documents (Wasiqa), Half Qataris, expats applied for qatari citizenship, childrens born in qatar, kids born to unknown parents / deemed in qatar, stateless families, All these issue needs attention form head of the state The EMIR. H.H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al – Thani.

I believe there are huge number of people wana voice out to sort this issue in an systematic procedural ways, i hope Qatar is progressing and accepts new reforms, Qatar has always played and important role in policy making and implemented the needful.

Tamim
Tamim
6 years ago
Reply to  osamaalassiry

How about stateless people in Qatar? All conditions match our situation since decades but we still not citizens!

Osama Alassiry
6 years ago
Reply to  Tamim

Tamim, the conditions say you can’t get it if the conditions don’t match the situation. The law doesn’t say that anybody matching the condition will get it.

SullyofDoha
SullyofDoha
6 years ago

Interesting to read. Over in Bahrain, the government has proactively offered long term expats the opportunity to become citizens (my understanding is that even the need to read and write in Arabic were waived).

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  SullyofDoha

Yes we know why they did that as well. Importing Sunni Pakistan and Indians among others to help with the religious balance. Not a good example.

SullyofDoha
SullyofDoha
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

In fact, I am talking about western expats who have lived in the country for years who do not have a religious affiliation with the exiting regime. BTW, who the heck are you to suggest that my statement is ‘not a good example’????

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago
Reply to  SullyofDoha

Bahrain is an example of why Qatar wouldn’t make it easy to become a Qatari. The (Sunni) King wanted to increase the population and be a Real King (long story) so opened up the gates and welcomed in a horde of (Shia) Iranians and Syrians.

Fast forward a few years to the Shia uprising against the Sunni royal family and behold… Sectarian strife and Bahrain becoming a client state of Saudi in return for their protection from future Shia riots.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

I am understand why some people would want to become Qatari citizens even if it is not for me but there are two types of people that should granted citizenship as a priority. Those born to Qatari mothers/Foreign Fathers who meet residence critiera, i.e. they live in Qatar. To discrimate against them is plain sexism and not justifiable.

The other group who should get it is long term Palestinian residents. Some have been here for three generations and know no where else. These people have no where to go and Qatar should be the big man and grant them citizenship. (Yes the Israelis are the main players to blame for this but why should this people suffer due to politics for generation after generation)

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

I’ve discussed this with many of my Qatari friends and there is no long term sustainability of Qatar post gas without widening the citizenship base.

The basis of my argument is simple, those that work here now see no long term future in the country for them so they take out of the maxium they can and reinvest it somewhere else. This is a drain on knowledge and funds out of Qatar and is continuous. However if they were granted citizenship then they would be committed to the country and would invest their money locally. More money and knowledge in Qatar, a more sustainable economy.

When the easy money from HC runs out and the expats leave or get sent home the economy collapses. Not only do you lost the money they spend in Qatar, you lose the other services as well in a death spiral. Rental market collapses, restuarants have no customers, schools close, shopping malls close, hotel market disappears and so on. This obviously then has a huge impact on citizens whose main income streams disappear overnight. (Unless they have not already done a runner to London)

Rien
Rien
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

“Qatar post gas” will not attract people to work here, let alone seek citizenship.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Rien

That why I have stated they have to do it now, while it is attractive. No one wants to become a Pakistani citizenship as the country is a failed state, the same would apply to Qatar without the gas, who would want to come and live in the desert if there is no money, no jobs and no business opportunties

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Money, from what I see, is the ONLY reason anyone comes here to work/live. If anyone can name another reason please let me know. Problem being even that is screwed up. Many are promised this and that and when they get here they get half of this and that. I know for a fact.

If you want Arab culture, move to Egypt for sure.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Egypt? Yes they were invaded and conquered by the arabs but their pre-Islamic history and culture is much more interesting.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

no one…it will be what it was…

Mr. B
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Absolutely right. Qatar and the UAE are both way too dependent on foreign labor.

It is likely, however, that, like most societies, they’ll have to learn the hard way after some kind of disaster. Eventually, something will spook expats to leave in large numbers (and that could range from an earthquake to a terrorist bombing campaign to rising seas to another credit crunch). It doesn’t have to be everyone, but the Gulf would do well to remember how close the dream of Dubai came to ending in 2009.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Mr. B

Or Ebola..

Ali
Ali
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Look up 2030 Qatar National Vision for the plans. Btw Post-Gas, Qatar does have sustainable plans which is why there’s Qatar Foundation, QSTP, DFI and various other initiatives for Knowledge based economy. Qatar is also targeting towards luxury and a high class touristic destination.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Ali

Nice on paper but how are they going to fund all those organisations. At the moment they just eat money. When the money gets tighter, so will the budgets and then a cut in expat salaries, without any stake in the country they will then leave for the next destinations.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

Let’s be honest. Why would anyone want to be Qatari ? The answer is simple : to get the generous benefits Qataris are entitled to. Even though this also applies to Western countries, there are also many people who want to be European or American because they embrace their way of life and feel honored to hold their passport. And you can easily see that from their efforts to integrate themselves socially and culturally into their new countries.

I have yet to see a foreigner who is so impressed by the Qatari culture that he wants to be naturalized Qatari, including from those who were born and lived all their life in Qatar. So restricting citizenship the way Qatar does it is understandable. That said, those called “Half Qataris” should be automatically granted citizenship if they decide to live here rather than their father’s home.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

What culture? Land Cruisers…Arrogance?

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

that’s a very arrogant and ignorant comment. frankly Im a little disappointed i expected better from you

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago

Well what culture? Explain what culture? Its been sold for the almighty dollar.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

the gulf has its own brand of poetry and music, we have falconry, camel racing and horseback riding. our own type of clothing and food, countless customs and traditions, it would help if your question was a little more specific, go watch a Qtips video or something.

also i would like to point out to you, you sound exactly like ignorant qatari’s who think the west has no culture other than getting drunk using the street as bathroom, harassing people and general douchbaggery. because you have no interest in a culture or have taken the time to mix with the people and learn about it does not mean it doesn’t exist

Ali
Ali
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

We have been living in Qatar for over 40 years and I was born here as well. Qatar is like a home to people like me and we are considered aliens in our countries because we don’t have the culture nor the experience of living in our countries. We visit our so called home as tourists and are treated by our relatives as outsiders.
I personally don’t believe it has anything to do with “Honor or embracing their way of life” to hold a certain passport unless you are racist, but all nationalities are equal and everyone is a human being at the end of the day. I’ve seen Arabs and Desis suffering in America even with American passport and I’ve seen Americans Happy being married to Arabs and Desis living in 3rd World countries with the 3rd world passports. So your point is invalid and offensive!
You might have come to Qatar in greed for the Oil money, but not everyone is like you!

Rien
Rien
6 years ago

Today Qatar does not want expats to become naturalized citizens … but when the Gas or its dependence disappears, nobody will want to come to Qatar.

Anood
Anood
6 years ago

Bahrain is giving citizenship to any expat…why not Qatar!!!

It is the RIGHT to CITIZENSHIP for any expat who has been there for so long(25+ Years), who has contributed to Qatar for so long, who has been part of Qatar’s development all these years…atleast for the sake of Contribution/Development, qatar has to abide the laws stated here (http://www.almeezan.qa/LawView.aspx?opt&LawID=2591&language=en)…broaden the thinking mates, it will only lead to more development and acceptance…

I know a family who applied for citizenship since 25 years….and still they are running around for it….

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Anood

Because they don’t want to share their pie with anyone.

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  Anood

If that happened to a Qatari in the USA they’d claim jihad on the racist, muslim hating infidels.

osamaalassiry
osamaalassiry
6 years ago
Reply to  Anood

1. Qatar is not like Bahrain.
2. It’s not a RIGHT, citizenship may be GRANTED after making sure some conditions are true.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago
Reply to  Anood

Lol… “Right”. Haha.

Anood
Anood
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

It is a RIGHT indeed because you have given your 25+ years serving that country… DUH!!!

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  Anood

1.Bahrain gives citizenship because they want to change the religious demographic of the country. qatar does not want to do that.
2. people do not give contributions to qatar out of the goodness of their hearts, they perform a service they get paid for it thats it.

Anood
Anood
6 years ago

Bahrain is giving citizenship to any expat…why not Qatar!!!

It
is the RIGHT to CITIZENSHIP for any expat who has been there for so
long(25+ Years), who has contributed to Qatar for so long, who has been
part of Qatar’s development all these years…atleast for the sake of
Contribution/Development, qatar has to abide the laws stated here
(http://www.almeezan.qa/LawView.aspx?opt&LawID=2591&language=en)…broaden
the thinking mates, it will only lead to more development and
acceptance…

I know a family who applied for citizenship since 25 years….and still they are running around for it….

Anood
Anood
6 years ago

Bahrain is giving citizenship to any expat…why not Qatar!!!

It
is the RIGHT to CITIZENSHIP for any expat who has been there for so
long(25+ Years), who has contributed to Qatar for so long, who has been
part of Qatar’s development all these years…atleast for the sake of
Contribution/Development, qatar has to abide the laws stated here
(http://www.almeezan.qa/LawView.aspx?opt&LawID=2591&language=en)…broaden
the thinking mates, it will only lead to more development and
acceptance…

I know a family who applied for citizenship since 25 years….and still they are running around for it….

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago

Will expat naturalized citizens be able to own property?

K Abdulghani
K Abdulghani
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Yes but he will get a spot next to Abu Samra or somewhere in Kharrara…Hehehehehe….

BBCA
BBCA
6 years ago

I think that Qatar should reconsider their rules for citizenship. There are a lot of people that have dedicated their lives to this country. The current thinking is suitable for “right now!” Looking at Qatar’s future after Gas wealth I think it would be wise for Qatar to have allowed some of the intellectual property to stay here. After Gas, Qatar will want and need a diverse population of people that are nationalistic and proud to work and flourish the country.

Providing citizenship to some of the current hard working individual may be a good thing… otherwise when the money is gone then all non citizens will be gone as well. That may not work well for the country. But hey… Insha’allah the gas will last forever! LOL!

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago

Considering the rules pointed out above, how on Earth did MF Husain get Qatari citizenship? When did he spend 25 continuous years living in Qatar???

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/8566775/MF-Husain.html

Abdul Rehman
Abdul Rehman
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

MF Husain was hired for his talent and legacy, now after his death Qatar will own most of the artifacts,relics, handiworks that was created or contributed by Mf Husain. Qatar gave him citizenship in a way to acquire right on his intellectual property and arts. Nationality was granted on no criteria basis…. God has given us one face and we make ourselves another.

Anood
Anood
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdul Rehman

Well Said….

BillyBob
BillyBob
6 years ago

Take a stroll down in Villagio on Thursday night. Too many immigrants. Can barely spot a Qatari. In my opinion, to be granted the citizenship, you must act as a Qatari. Meaning dress similarly, learn the language, understand the culture, and actually love the country. Everyone (other than those who have lived here for all their lives, or born to Qatari Mothers) who wants the citizenship, wants it for the money. Not because they love the country. At the end, it all boils down to the differences in attitude between nationals and expats. Doha is slowly turning into Dubai. Which is not a good thing. The culture will be lost, and replaced with that of the West’s. Most of the expats females I see around threw Modesty out of the window when it comes to attire. Male expats are too influenced by the western lifestyle. To keep Qatar the traditional way it is, citizenship should be made difficult, but not impossible. Some people deserve it, but most don’t.

Huzz
Huzz
6 years ago
Reply to  BillyBob

So based on this, to be a UK citizen people should not wear any Arabic clothes like the abaya. That would go down well with them in the UK.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  BillyBob

Act like a Qatari…ok…where do we start? Buy a LC?

Canadian Observer
Canadian Observer
6 years ago

Something that is a bit ironic, possibly off topic, is the fact that in the past children born to a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father were considered Jewish, but not the reverse. In pre DNA testing days you knew a child had Jewish blood due to the fact they were a child of a Jewish mother, whereas you could not prove a Jewish man was the father scientifically. Of course, now all of this can be confirmed scientifically, but it really was a practical concept in some way. A child born to a Qatari mother is for sure 50% Qatari but a child born to a Qatari father just might not be.

Tamim
Tamim
6 years ago

The article didn’t mintion an important issue in Qatar which they are Qatari Travel Document’s holders, in other word Stateless people. We live in Qatar since 1940’s / 1960’s and we are still non Qataris. We born here, educate in Qatar’s school, our relatives are Qataris, our identity is Qataris and our traditions and values are excatly the same of Qataris. We are Qataris without an official identity that proofe that. Since decades the government promise to make us Qatari citizns, but our sitution is still the same even with 3rd and 4th generation of us lived in Qatar. The government treat us as expacts in most fields except health care which we treated as Qataris and part of education services like independent schools and Qatar University we get a free education. Our big issue that our loyality is to Qatar but government doesn’t recognise us until now. This cause alot of issues for us like psychological issues, social issues, living issues and many others. There is an account in twitter talk and retweet what is related to Statless People in Qatar @qataritd

Tamim
Tamim
6 years ago
Reply to  Tamim

More about Qatari Travel Document’s holders, we are about 2000 people only. Some of us are sons and daughters of Qatari mother. We would like to live like our relatives and friends, so we don’t worry about our future and our child’s future. When person spend more than 50 years in a country and still this country deal with him as foreigner! It is injustice! I hope that Sh. Tamim lookup after our issue and solve it as soon as possible. We hate our life because of this! We can’t marry, travel, doing business, own lands or houses, and having a good job like our uncle’s sons. We want to live as humans!

BillyBob
BillyBob
6 years ago

To the DohaNews team. I’ve left a reply back to my original comment. It has been waiting for approval. Can you ‘approve it’ already.

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