Qatar: Kafala system officially "abolished"
The much anticipated change to the kafala system of employment is due to be implemented by 13 December 2016
Qatar has completed the preparation for the regulations of the law regulating the entry and exit of expatriates and it will come into effect from 13 December this year.
The changes are anticipated to improve the work environment through efficiency on one hand, and on the other, it is expected to end the illegal practice of visa selling and prevent bogus companies from misusing the visa laws.
If all goes well, the changes should also overhaul the image of Qatar's labour market in the eyes of international media and rights organisations.
Among the changes, the new law abolishes the current two-year ban imposed on expatriates who want to come back to the country on a new visa. The current situation requires a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the previous employer for a former resident to take up a new job in Qatar.
The new legislation, however, will replace the sponsorship system and make the employment and stay of expats entirely contract-based, with the contract signed by a foreign worker before landing here, once the new law is in place.
In addition, employment contracts of all expatriate workers presently in the country will be replaced with new contracts.
In other words, all expatriate workers will have to sign new contracts with their employers in compliance with the provisions of the new law (No 21 of 2015).
Brigadier Mohamed Ahmed al-Atiq, assistant-director general of the Department of Border, Passport and Expatriates Affairs, explained the salient features of the new law: “Since the new law abolishes kafala (sponsorship system), a person who had previously worked in Qatar would not have to seek the approval of his former sponsor if he is recruited by a new employer.
“A foreign worker who has got a new contract to work in Qatar can come back even the next day, provided he has met the other requirements like visa,” he said.
This contract will form the basis of the understanding between a foreign worker and his employer, with the contract signed for two or five years’ duration. Both parties will be obliged to follow its clauses that will contain terms and conditions.
Once the new law is in effect, the exit permit system whereby a foreign worker needs written permission from his sponsor to travel overseas will also end and only to inform the employer of departure would be required.
If a foreign worker is fired as a punitive measure and did not appeal his dismissal or his plea was rejected by a court, he shall not be permitted to come back to Qatar before the passage of four years, according to Article 26 of the new law.
In addition, an expatriate worker deported upon a court verdict cannot come back without the approval of the Minister of Interior.
According to the new law, expatriate workers can change jobs either after the expiry of their contracts or after five years of service with their employer in the case of open-ended contracts, so long as they obtain governmental permission.
To change jobs before the contract expires, the new law specifies that the expatriate worker has to get the approval of the employer, as well as the relevant government entities.
The new law also enables expatriates to apply for exit permits themselves through the approved channels of the Ministry of Interior, without the employer’s permission. Should the request be granted, it would be issued within three working days.
In cases of emergency and the mutual agreement of both the worker and the employer, the exit permit will be granted immediately.
According to new law, no approval from former employer is required if he is recruited by a new employer. An expat can also move to another sponsor with the approval of MOI and MOLSA if the sponsor is dead or the company no longer exists.
Things you need to know about new law kafala changes:
1. New law would be implemented by this year 2016.
2. New law will make employment and stay of expatiates entirely contract-based.
3. Two-year ban on a new work visa will no longer be applicable.
4. No approval from former employer required if recruited by a new employer.
5. Worker who has a new contract to work in Qatar can come back even on the next day.
6. Exit permit will not be required for travel
7. To leave Qatar, the employee needs to inform his employer three days before and apply through Metrash 2 system.
8. All presently employed expatriate workers will have present contracts replaced with new contracts by the end of this year.
9. The signing date of the fresh employment contract will be the date from when the contract will commence.
10. Employment contract has to approved by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
11. Closed contracts shall not exceed a period of five years.
12. Employees with open-ended contracts can move to another employer after spending a minimum of five years with the first employer.
13. Workers with fixed job contracts can change their work and sign new contracts if they wish so at the end of the contract period without any NOC but approval from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
14. An expat can also move to another sponsor with the approval of MOI and MOLSA if the sponsor is dead or the company no longer exists.
15. $13,731 (QAR50,000) fine and jail terms of up to three years for recruiters who allow their employees to work for other parties without prior official approval.
16. $2,746 (QAR10,000) to $6,865 (QAR25,000) fine for keeping passport of expatriate employee.