HR and tax alert | August 2017

Qatar announces plan to develop permanent residency program

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Executive summary

The Qatar government has announced it will issue draft legislation to introduce a formal permanent residence program for foreign national Qatari residents.

Permanent residence will not be available to all foreign nationals; rather, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), which is sponsoring the legislation, will assess applications based on a set of conditions set out within the provisions of the newly proposed legislation, before granting or denying permanent residence in Qatar.

Further clarity on the details of this new program is expected in the coming months.

Background

Similar to other Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries, Qatar has a large foreign national population and does not currently grant permanent residence to them, except in rare cases and only where strict conditions are met.

With the implementation of a formal permanent residence program in Qatar, the MOI’s aim is both to retain the existing highly skilled foreign population in the country and to reward them for their services to Qatar. Furthermore, the program aims to attract additional foreign investments and open Qatar’s economy up to other industries as the country’s efforts to diversify continue.

Key developments

Although the proposed Qatari permanent residence program is still under discussion, it is expected that the MOI will create eligibility criteria for foreign nationals to qualify for the new status which depend on a number of factors including whether the individual falls into one of the following broad categories:

  • Entrepreneurs that meet special conditions.
  • Individuals with specific skills and qualifications in areas where the local labor market finds itself lacking.
  • Individuals who have offered privileged services to Qatar, such as services in uniform (in the context of both military and civilian roles).
  • Children of non-Qatari nationals married to a Qatari national.

Additionally, all foreign nationals who apply for permanent residence in Qatar should already hold valid Qatari residence status. Foreign nationals who receive permanent residence in Qatar are expected to benefit from:

  • Qatar’s welfare system, which includes education and health-care services.
  • The ability to be considered for employment in the public sector (in the military and civil sector, and after Qatari locals).
  • Permission to own property, along with an exemption from the requirement to have a local business partner for certain commercial activities.

Next steps

The situation is being closely monitored and further details on the new permanent residence program, and the eligibility criteria, will be provided in due course when finalized. Further clarity is expected towards the end of the year regarding details such as:

  • The length of time that foreign nationals will have to hold Qatari residency status before being able to apply for permanent residency.
  • The exact eligibility criteria required in order to apply for, and obtain, permanent residency.
  • The validity of permanent residency once granted, and the specific benefits to which holders will be entitled.

Employers with Qatari-inbound operations should consider the impact of the increased attractiveness of Qatar for mid and long term inbound assignees and/or employees in the context of the potentially increased access to welfare.

EYG no. 04626-173Gbl

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