The new law regulating entry, exit and residency of expatriates in Qatar has transformed the Kafala (sponsorship) system in the country into one controlled by employment contracts, a senior official of the Ministry of Interior has said.
When Law No. 21 of 2015 that regulates the entry, exit and residency of expatriates in Qatar comes into force towards the end of next year, the current two-year ban on expatriates who want to come back to the country on a new work visa will no longer be applicable.
A foreign worker who has got a new contract to work in Qatar can come back even the next day, provided he has met the other requirements like visa, a top official of the Ministry of Interior has clarified.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed Al Atiq, Assistant Director General of the Department of Border, Passport and Expatriates Affairs at the ministry said that the new law has done away with exit permits that were an integral part of the Kafala system.
“Exit permit will no more be required for travel since it was part of the Kafala system, which will become invalid with enforcement of this law,” said Al Atiq.
Brigadier Mohamed Ahmed al-Atiq, assistant-director general of the Department of Border, Passport and Expatriates Affairs, pointed out that the two-year ban on return of an expatriate worker was directly linked to the sponsorship (kafala) system. Since the new law abolishes kafala, a person who had previously worked in Qatar would not have to seek the approval of his former sponsor if he is recruited by a new employer, he said.
Brigadier al-Atiq said expatriates are deported only on the basis of a court order and this had no connection with the issue of a two-year ban even in the old law, according to reports in the local Arabic media.
To leave the country an employee needs to apply to the departments concerned at the Ministry of Interior through Metrash 2 system and inform his employer three days in advance.
“No one will prevent an expatriate worker from leaving the country and in case of any objection (from the employer), both sides can approach the grievances committee which will look into the issue,” he added.
This committee will comprise representatives from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and other bodies concerned.
The applicant (expatriate worker) will receive a SMS confirming approval or rejection and in case of any dispute it should be raised to the grievance committee. If the committee does not take a decision within three working days then the case be referred to the court, explained the official.
The law has stated that in case of an emergency, the worker can leave immediately after notifying the employer and by approval of the authorities concerned.
Brig Al Atiq added that major changes have been made in the residency law including change of the sponsorship (Kafala) system into one controlled by employment contract and accordingly the term sponsor (kafeel) has been replaced by employer.
The relation between the employer and employee will be based on the terms of the employment contract they sign on a voluntary basis.
When the employment contract is approved by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs it becomes valid and binding on both parties.
As in the old system, workers can change jobs any time if the current employer issues a no objection certificate.
“As per provisions of the new law, closed contracts shall not exceed a period of five years. Workers who have open-ended contracts can move to another employer after spending a minimum of five years with the first employer. The notice period shall be two months for less than five years of service and it will be the period agreed in the work contract in case of more than five years of service,” Arabic dailies quoted al-Shawi as saying.
“We expect a smooth implementation of the law and more than 90 percent of the cases would comply with the new procedure for exit and the committee would be dealing with the remaining less than 10 percent” said Saleh Al Shawi, Director of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, who was also present at the press conference.
When asked why the law comes into force one year after the date of its publication in the official gazette, Al Shawi said that there is need for time to prepare for its implementation.
The new system needs to be introduced to the job market, and all the parties concerned need to be aware of the requirements of the new system regulated by job contracts.
Brig Al Atiq added said that one year is needed for implementation of the law because there are many things to be done including issuance of executive regulations for the law, establishment of the grievance committee and outlining its mandates.
Expatriate workers with fixed job contracts can change their work and sign new contracts if they wish so at the end of the contract period. For this they don’t need approval from their current employer. However, an approval is needed from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
Al Shawi explained that there is no limitation on the number of job contracts a worker can sign or their duration, but the law has suggested five years as the maximum period for employment contracts. If the job contract is open-ended, a worker can change job after five years with approval from the two ministries.
Al Shawi added that expatriate workers will sign new job contracts with their employers after the new law comes into force because the law does not apply to existing job contracts.