A comparative study of the 20th Century Sponsorship Law and the 21st Century Sponsorship Law in Qatar
A new law (No. (4) of 2009) Regulating the Entry, Exit, Residence & Sponsorship of Foreigners (the “New Sponsorship Law”) has been ratified by the Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. It was published in the official gazette on 29th March 2009 and came into force on 29th April 2009.
The New Sponsorship Law has revoked a number of laws and now comprises one law establishing all rules and regulations for Foreigners’ Entry, Residence, Exit & Sponsorship in Qatar.
The laws that have been revoked by virtue of the New Sponsorship Law No 4 of 2009 are as follows:
- Law No (3) of 1963 Regulating the Entry & Residence of Foreigners in Qatar;
- Law No (3) of 1984 Regulating the Residence, Exit & Sponsorship of Foreigners (the “Old Sponsorship Law”);
- Law No. (8) of 1983 Regarding Conciliation of Crimes of Entry & Residence of Foreigners in Qatar;
- Decree Law No (20) of 1998 Regarding the Categories & Rules of the Fees & Tariffs Collected by the Ministry of Interior & the Fines Reconcilable Upon in Crimes of Entry & Residence of Foreigners in Qatar; and
- Law No (2) of 2006 Regulating the Entry and Residence of some Categories in Qatar.
Optimistic expectations arose with regard to the “revolution” that the New Sponsorship Law would make. However, although the New Sponsorship Law has resulted in some significant changes to the Old Sponsorship Law and the other related laws, it has not actually achieved expectations and has retained a number of undesired and antique provisions from the revoked laws, some of which have been generally considered violations of Human Rights.
Main Retained Provisions under the New Sponsorship Law
Restriction on Working for another Employer while residing in Qatar
The New Sponsorship Law has retained such a restriction by maintaining natural and juristic persons employers ability to prevent expatriates whom they have sponsored from abroad from working for other parties or preventing the use of workers not being sponsored by them. Similarly, an employee is also not allowed to work for another employer other than the employer from whom he received sponsorship.
Restriction on Working for another Employer after Residency cancellation
Although the old law did not have any provision with regard to Expatriate workers leaving Qatar after being residents for work purposes, the enforcement practice was such as to not grant them work visas unless after two years from the date they left Qatar. The New Sponsorship Law now places into law such enforcement practice, article (4) which provides:
“It is restricted to grant a working visa to an expatriate, who has been residing in the State for work purposes unless after two years from the departure date.
The Minister of Interior or his deputy can waive this period as will as the Competent Authority can make some exceptions upon a written approval from the previous sponsor”.
Exit Permit Restriction
The New Sponsorship Law has retained the requirement for employers consenting to exit permits and clearly provids that employees (excluding women sponsored by their husbands, minors and visitors whose visits do not exceed thirty days) cannot temporarily or permanently leave Qatar unless having first obtained an exit permit from their sponsoring employers.
Similarly with the Old Law, the New Sponsorship Law has also provided that those employees who are unable to obtain an exit permit - due to their sponsor’s objection, death or absence (without appointing a deputy) – may obtain a certificate allowing them an exit from the concerned court provided that there are not any executive judgments or court cases against the employee and provided further that such a certificate may only be issued after fifteen days from the date of publishing the travel date of the employee in two daily newspapers (see also point 7 in part B).
Residence Permit Without Sponsorship
The old law allowed Ministerial exemption from the requirement for a sponsor in very limited circumstances (i.e. certain investors, certain owners or beneficiaries of real estate, categories of persons specified by Cabinet resolution) and these categories have been maintained in the New Sponsorship Law.
Main Amendments of the New Sponsorship Law
Transfer of Sponsorship
Whereas both the new law and the old law provided that transfer of sponsorship can be made through a written agreement between the ex-employer and the new employer after being approved by the concerned authority and the Labor Department, the New Sponsorship Law has included additional provisions where in certain cases, the transfer of sponsorship without the approval of the ex-employer can be accepted.
These cases are as follows:
- The Minister of Interior or his deputy can temporarily transfer expatriate sponsorship if there are court cases between the sponsor and the expatriate.
- The Minister of Interior or his deputy can transfer the sponsorship of an expatriate (whether governed by the provisions of Labor Law or not) if sponsor’s “abuse” of the expatriate has been proved or if the public interest requires so.
Delivery of Passports
Whereas some sponsors have abused the silence of the old laws with regards to the “right” of a sponsor to hold the passports of expatriates and refused to return the passports to their employees, the New Sponsorship Law provides that the sponsor must return the passport or the substitute document to the expatriate when the residency procedure and the renewal processes are completed.
Obligation to Leave the Country after the End of Work or Sponsorship Cancellation
Whereas the Old Sponsorship Law provided that an expatriate should immediately leave the country at the end of his entry or residency purpose or at the end of his employment or upon cancellation of his sponsorship, without providing a time limit to do so, the New Sponsorship Law has provided that this period shall be within ninety days from the date of the end of such employment or from the date of cancelling such a sponsorship.
Flexibility in returning back to Qatar
According to the new Sponsorship Law, expatriates who are holding Qatari residencies can stay out of the country for more than 6 months, if they obtain an approval from the Minister of Interior or his Deputy prior to their travel or within one year from their travelling date provided that no more than sixty days have passed from the date of the residency expiry. The New Sponsorship Law has also given the Minister or his Deputy the right to waive such a period.
Termination of Employment
The Old Sponsorship Law had provided that an expatriate worker - who has left the country after being terminated from his job due to him breaching the terms and conditions of his employment contract – cannot return to Qatar unless a minimum of three years has passed from the date of travel. The New Sponsorship Law has introduced even more rigid terms and has replaced this period with a period of four years (in the case of any worker being terminated from his job in accordance to the provisions of article (61) of the Labor Law) or in accordance with regulatory provisions regulating the affairs of governmental employees or any other laws provided that no appeal has been made against such a termination before the concerned courts or the appeal has been made but rejected thereafter.
Part Time Jobs
The New Sponsorship Law has allowed for a worker to perform a part time job for another employer other than his sponsor provided that the part time job shall be outside his original working hours and provided that his sponsor agrees in writing. Any worker who is governed by the provisions of the Labor Law must also seek the approval of the Labor Department.
Although the New Sponsorship Law has retained the requirement for an employee to obtain an exit permit from his sponsoring employer whenever he needs to temporarily or permanently leave Qatar, it has also initiated an alternative in circumstances where the employee can provide an “Exit Guarantor” in circumstances where it is impossible to obtain an exit permit due to the sponsor’s objection, death or absence (without him appointing a deputy). At this point in time, we do not really know who is an acceptable “Exit Guarantor”, although this is likely to be in new executive regulations, when the same are released.
Sponsorship by Female workers
While the practice under the Old Sponsorship Law was to allow a male worker to sponsor his wife and not to allow a female worker to sponsor her husband, the New Sponsorship Law has eliminated such a distinction and has accepted such sponsorships by wives of their husbands.
Sponsorship by Qatari Female
According to the New Sponsorship Law, Qatari women married to non Qataris can now sponsor their foreign husbands and children after obtaining the approval of the concerned department.