The new Qatari Immigration Law, which has been in force since December 2016, still lacks clarity in certain areas and it remains to be seen how the provisions will be applied.

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The Immigration Law brings in 2 main changes:

  • introduction of the possibility to transfer employment within Qatar without a no objection certificate (NOC) from the previous employer, subject to fulfilment of the required conditions; and
  • amendment to the exit permit regime for employees.

Additionally, previously, once employment was terminated, if the employee was not granted an NOC, they were required to exit Qatar and were not permitted to re-enter for 2 years. The 2-year time limit has now been abolished.

NOCs for transfer

The option to change jobs depends on (i) the type of contract (fixed or unlimited term) and (ii) the employee's service period. Employees can change employers without an NOC if they have (i) an open-ended contract and have completed 5 years' service with the employer; or (ii) a fixed term contract which has expired. NOCs are still required in all other circumstances.

Exit permits

These have not been abolished completely. Exit permits must still be requested in writing by the employee. Applications are approved electronically via the government system, although in practice, employer approval is still required. A state-run Exit Permit Grievance Committee has been established for employees to appeal exit permit refusals.

In January 2017, 500 residents sought the Committee's help and 321 cases were resolved. Appeals should usually be approved within 72 hours, although they can be expedited in emergency cases.