IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Qatar has signaled that it will allow some foreign nationals to apply for permanent residency, a change that would provide qualified nationals many of the same rights as Qatari citizens in a country that relies heavily on foreign labor.

What does the change mean? Once the change is implemented, qualifying foreign nationals will be eligible to apply for permanent residency. The Ministry of Interior is expected to create a special committee to handle permanent residency applications.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Permanent residence cards.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals who meet select criteria to apply for permanent residency in Qatar.
  • Next steps: The Cabinet approved a draft permanent residency law in August, but officials still must take additional steps before Qatar will begin accepting applications under the proposal.

Background: Qatar, like many of its neighbors, relies heavily on foreign labor. Foreign workers make up about 85 percent of the population, which was about 2.3 million in July. QNA, Qatar’s state news agency, reported in August that the committee would be permitted to grant permanent residency to (1) children of Qatari women married to non-Qatari nationals; (2) those who have performed “great services” for Qatar; and (3) those deemed to have “special competencies” that are in demand.

Qatar is moving toward allowing foreign nationals to apply for permanent residency as it navigates a diplomatic crisis with many of its Persian Gulf neighbors and amid growing pressure from the international community to improve labor standards ahead of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament. The change would allow those who obtain permanent residency to enjoy many of the same rights as Qatari citizens, including access to education, health care and the right to own property. They would also receive priority treatment, second only to Qatari citizens, for civil service and military positions.

BAL Analysis: The change could help make Qatar a more popular destination for foreign nationals, something the Qatari government is eager to pursue amid attempts to isolate Doha. The government has not completed all the steps it must take before it can begin accepting applications, however.