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Report: Changes to Qatar’s kafala law to take effect Dec. 14, 2016

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

New legislation that is expected to make it easier for expats to change jobs in Qatar has been entered into the official gazette this month and is expected to be implemented in one year’s time, Al Sharq reports.

Citing Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs officials, the newspaper added that the law would not be applicable to contracts signed before its implementation.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Law No. 21 of 2015 regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates will come into force on Dec. 14, 2016, a year and three months after it first met the Emir’s approval.

The legislation updates the existing Law No. 4 of 2009 Regarding Regulation of the Expatriates’ Entry, Departure, Residence and Sponsorship.

The main reforms are that:

  • There will be a new system to appeal refused exit permits; and
  • Expats who finish fixed contracts will no longer need their sponsor’s approval to take up another job.

Previously, one had to wait two years to work in Qatar again if an employer refused to grant a no objection certificate to change jobs.

Exit permits

Additionally, cognizant of the criticism Qatar has received of its kafala system, which human rights organizations say enables the abuse of expats at the hands of unscrupulous sponsors, the text of the new law does not use the word kafeel (sponsor). It instead refers to a contractual relationship between an employer/employee.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Meanwhile, though authorities said the passage of the legislation spells the end of the exit permit system, the text of the law suggests that the employer will continue to play a significant role in regulating the departure of his employees.

However, instead of appealing to an employer directly, an employee who wishes to leave the country must inform the Ministry of Interior at least three business days before his/her exit.

The MOI would then wait for the sponsor’s approval or objection before permitting the exit, the law states:

“Other than this (any objections), the employee can leave the country once their employer informs the ministry of their approval that they can go on holiday.”

If the sponsor objects, there is going to be a new appeal process set up by the MOI.

Here’s our unofficial English translation of the new law.

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