When enacted on December 13, Law No 21 of 2015, the new law that will govern the entry, exit, and residency of expats will guarantee the freedom of movement for over 2.1mn salaried workforce in Qatar, an official statement yesterday said.
The new law abolishes the existing Kafala system, replacing it with a modernised, contract-based system.
Under the new law, foreign workers have the right to leave the country after notifying the employer.
They have the right to permanently leave the country before or after completing the duration of their contract, after notifying the employer according to the terms of the contract.
If the employer rejects a leave request, the migrant worker can appeal to the Exit Permit Grievances Committee, which has to respond to all requests within three days.
The applicant will be able to get an Exit Permit unless he is wanted in connection with any active criminal proceedings, or has defaulted on any debt in Qatar that remains unsettled.
For exit permits, migrant workers have to first submit their application in writing to their employer, as per the terms of their contract.
The ministry hopes in the overwhelming majority of cases, exit permit requests will be approved and processed by employers immediately.
If the employer rejects this request, expats will be able to apply directly to the Exit Permit Grievances Committee, either through an e-government services programme, or in-person at government service complexes and police stations throughout the country.
Once submitted, all Exit Permit requests received will be decided upon within 72 hours.
Upon receipt, the Exit Permit Grievances Committee will conduct an immediate background check of the applicant to ensure that no active or pending criminal proceedings, or financial claims, are currently against them.
During the 72-hour window for deciding upon the request, the committee will look to contact the applicant’s employer.
The employer will be asked if they have any objection to the request.
Valid objections may include: a) reason to believe that the employee has committed fraud b) reason to believe that the worker is attempting to evade prosecution for a crime.
If any of these objections are raised by the employer, the onus will be on the employer to convince the authorities before the 72-hour period closes that a criminal case should be opened up against the worker.
If they cannot succeed in persuading the relevant authorities, the worker will be automatically granted an exit permit.
If the committee cannot contact an expatriate’s employer within the 72 hours, it will approve the request – provided that the worker passes all relevant background checks.
In the event of an emergency, the committee can expedite this timing.
The Exit Permit Grievances Committee will consist of officials from the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour & Social Affairs, and representatives of the National Human Rights Committee.
In their hearings, the worker will have the opportunity to contest any evidence that may have been used against them.
Further, the worker will also have the opportunity to appeal for clemency, in cases where they owe debt but need to return home for a medical or family emergency.