After more than a year of debate, Qatar has adopted changes to its controversial Kafala sponsorship system, which will make it easier for some to switch jobs and leave the country.
The main reforms appear to be that there will be a new system to appeal refused exit permits.
Additionally, expats who finish fixed contracts will no longer need their sponsor’s approval to take up another job.
Previously, one had to wait two years to work in Qatar again if an employer refused to grant a no objection certificate to change jobs.
However, the reforms won’t come into effect for at least another year, according to state news agency QNA, which reported:
“HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Tuesday issued Law No. 21 of 2015 on the regulation of the entry and exit of expatriates and their residency. All concerned authorities, each in their capacity, are to implement the law and it will be applicable one year after its date of publication in the official gazette.”
The law comes more than a year after authorities promised reforms to the system, which has been widely criticized by human rights organizations for enabling the abuse of expats in Qatar at the hands of unscrupulous sponsors.
Foreign residents require their sponsor’s permission to obtain bank loans, a driver’s license and – most controversially – exit Qatar.
The new law updates the existing Law No. 4 of 2009 Regarding Regulation of the Expatriates’ Entry, Departure, Residence and Sponsorship.
According to a text of the law published in Arabic by Al Sharq tonight, the legislation does not use the word kafeel (sponsor), instead referring to the employer as “the person who licensed you to come into the country.”
One of the pledges from authorities was that it would become easier for expats to exit the country.
However, it appears the employer will continue to play a significant role in regulating the departure of his employees.
But now, instead of directly petitioning the sponsor, expats who wish to leave the country must inform the Ministry of Interior at least three business days before their exit.
The MOI would then wait for the sponsor’s approval or objection before permitting the exit, the law states:
“Other than this (any objections), the employee can leave the country once their employer informs the ministry of their approval that they can go on holiday.”
It added that expats can petition an MOI-sanctioned committee if the sponsor objects to their exit, a new feature that was not previously in the kafala law.
In the event of an emergency, the grievance committee would handle the petition within no more than three business days.