Qatar Approves Permanent Residency Plans

The Qatari Ministerial Council approved a draft law (“PR Law”) on 2 August 2017 to grant permanent residency identification cards (“PR”) to foreigners which will allow the holder to stay in Qatar without being tied to the duration of their employment contract. A PR holder would be entitled to receive the same treatment as Qataris in education and healthcare in government institutions, second in priority to nationals for attaining military and civil service jobs. The advantages also include the right to real estate ownership, and engagement in some commercial activities in exception to the restrictions set by the Foreign Investment Law No. 13 of 2000 (“Investment Law”).

According to the draft provisions of the bill, a PR may be granted to either (a) the children of a Qatari woman married to a non-Qatari man (b) to non-Qataris who have either offered ‘valuable services’ to the country or (c) have unique skills required by the country. A Permanent Residency ID Granting Committee will be established under Qatar’s Ministry of Interior to review applications and approval will be granted by the Minister of Interior. Gaining a PR appears to draw a comparison to attaining citizenship, which is granted those who have either provided ‘great service’ to the country or have particular skills/special qualifications that Qatar needs as per Law No. 38 of 2005 on the Acquisition of Qatari Nationality. Notwithstanding, citizenship has a higher requirement threshold as an Emiri Decree is necessary.

Nevertheless, this is a momentous initiative by Qatar to build a closer relationship with its expatriate community in light of the sponsorship regime in the Gulf region. For example, with some exceptions companies in Qatar generally require a Qatari partner in accordance with Qatar’s Commercial Companies Law No. 11 of 2015 and the Investment Law require that companies in Qatar must have at least 51% Qatari ownership. The draft PR Law adds to the existing opportunities for non-Qataris to engage in commercial activities, such as those provided by the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) economic zone of allowing foreigners to have 100% ownership in commercial companies. Moreover, the draft law also develops the concessions of freehold ownership for foreigners which were generally restricted to Qatari nationals with a few exceptions in certain properties and developments in the country.

As the PR Law is in its draft stage, it is unclear as to how transfers of sponsorships or effects of first degree family members. Qatar has also recently introduced visa-free entry for nationals from eighty countries. The policy on visa waiver splits citizens of countries into two categories whereby the citizens of 47 countries (including the United Kingdom, and United States) can spend up to 30 days in Qatar, and for nationals of 33 countries (including most European countries) can spend up to 90 days in Qatar. This enhancement of entering the country with ease in addition to the symbolically significant PR Law proposes advantageous prospects in terms of commercial activity/access and foreign investment opportunities for Qatar.

To learn more, contact the authors:

Mahmoud Abuwasel