What Qatar's new labour law entails

As the amnesty period draws to a close on 1 December, the new sponsorship law comes into view, kicking off on 13 December.

It remains unclear whether new contracts will be issued next month or if the rules will still apply to existing ones.
It remains unclear whether new contracts will be issued next month or if the rules will still apply to existing ones.

Qatar’s new sponsorship law will give expats 30 days to get RPs.

Foreigners moving to Qatar will find respite in the new sponsorship law which allows more time to obtain residency permits.

The new law kicks in on 13 December, and instead of seven days as stipulated in the current law on expatriates’ entry, departure, residence and sponsorship, the amended law will afford expats 30 days in which to process the documentation, a senior official said.

Approved by the Emir last October, Law No. 21 of 2015 will come into effect on 13 December and is expected to make it easier for some residents to change jobs as well as leave the country.

However, the law still poses limitation in some cases, drawing mixed responses.

During the last month, officials have held briefing sessions with companies to explain how the new law will work in practice.

While few of these details have been shared publicly yet, many people will still need to get No Objection Certificates (NOCs) before they can change jobs and obtain exit permits before leaving Qatar.

Al Raya reported this week that the director of the search and follow-up department at the Ministry of Interior (MOI) outlined some of the changes.

Brig. Abdulla Jabir Al-Libdah said that with regards to processing RPs, expats will now have 30 days to start the paperwork, accordance with Article 10 of the new law.

Article 40 also states that failure to begin the RP process in time could result in a fine of up to QR10,000, about $2,700.

New rules around transferring jobs while in Qatar are covered in Chapter five of the new law.

Under Article 21, expats on an open-ended contract will not need their sponsor’s permission to change jobs once they’ve worked for five years, while those on fixed-term contracts, once their agreement is finished, will no longer need to get an NOC to change jobs.

Nevertheless, any expat must seek the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs’ permission to change jobs.

Presently, if their existing employer refuses to give an NOC, an employee has to wait at least two years before being permitted to join a new company in Qatar.

While Al-Libdah said the new law would “bring a balance in the relationship between the employer and the worker, according to the mutually binding work contract”, it remains unclear whether new contracts will be issued next month or if the rules will apply to existing ones.

Semantics plays a role in the new law, which omits the word kafeel – sponsor – replacing reference to the employer as “the person who licensed you to come into the country”.

Exiting the country will entail applying to the MOI – and not the sponsor – at least three days before planned departure, as the exit permit will still exist under the new law.

The employer nevertheless still has to give their permission before the expat can leave.

If the exit visa is denied by the employer and/or the ministry, the employee can appeal their case to the Foreign Nationals Exit Grievances Council, according to Article 7.

In the interim, just eight days remain before the amnesty period for undocumented workers – which was announced on 1 September – comes to an end on 1 December 2016.

The Brigadier said he expected to see an increase in numbers over the next week as people apply to leave the country.

The official told Al Raya that uptake for the amnesty “exceeded all expectations, especially at the beginning” of the period.

Expats living here illegally are still able to leave Qatar without penalties if they bring the necessary paperwork to the Search and Follow Up department before 30 November.

To take advantage of the amnesty, expats must have:
A valid passport or travel documents from the embassy;
A plane ticket or booking; and
An ID card or copy of their entry visa.

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