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.
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.
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sponsorship (Kafala) system into one controlled by employment contract and accordingly the term sponsor (kafeel) has been replaced by employer.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.
The official clarified that an employee can return to the country two or three days after his departure to take up a new job if he gets a new contract and fulfils entry visa requirements and if there is no court verdict against him.
This is different from the prevailing system which does not allow a worker to return before two years after he is sent back by his sponsor, he added. However, this does not apply to those who are deported by a court order.
The new law has raised the fine on the employer for keeping employees’ passports from QR10,000 to QR25,000.
An employer can keep the passport of his employee only upon a written request from the employee, said Brig Al Atiq.
“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.