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Qatar changes visa rules for foreign workers

Foreign workers in Qatar will no longer need approval from their existing employer to change jobs if they complete a fixed term contract.05 Dec 2016

Qatar's law on the entry, exit and residency of foreign workers will change from 13 December, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) said.

Workers on fixed term contracts who want to change jobs should give notice according to the terms of their contracts, but will not need their current employer's permission if they have completed their contract, MADLSA said.

If they have not completed the contract they must ask the employer's permission to leave, unless they can demonstrate that they have been exploited or mistreated, the Ministry said.

Workers on open-ended contracts will also be able to change jobs without permission, but only after completing a five-year service period. These workers must provide written notice.

In both cases, the workers will need approval from MADLSA for the change of employment.

Employers will also now have to agree annual leave dates with their employees to allow them to gain an exit permit, MADLSA said.

Any employee looking to leave the country for a holiday or an emergency will apply to their employer, according to the terms of their contract, and "is anticipated that in the overwhelming majority of cases, exit permit requests will be approved and processed by employers immediately", MADLSA said.

If an employer rejects a request the employee will be able to apply to an exit permit grievance committee, either via an e-government services programme, or in person at government service complexes and police stations throughout Qatar, the Ministry said.

A decision will be made within 72 hours. During that period the committee will conduct a background check into the employee and any criminal or financial claims against them. The employer will also be asked for its objections. If the employer cannot show that a criminal case should be opened against the employee, an exit permit will be granted, MADLSA said.

In the event of an emergency the process can be managed more quickly than 72 hours, it said.

Workers whose contracts are terminated have three months to find new work before they have to leave Qatar, MADLSA said.

Those who have left Qatar and had their employment and residency permits cancelled can return if they are granted a new visa, unless they were found guilty of misconduct in their previous role, it said. 

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