Qatar has officially made permanent residency an option for a limited number of foreigners, a landmark development in the energy-rich Gulf.
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani issued a decree allowing a maximum of 100 expatriates to gain permanent residency each year, giving them access to a generous welfare system and commercial rights previously reserved for citizens of the world’s biggest exporter of natural gas. The Ministry of Interior will decide on applications, according to the Sept. 4 decree.
A yearlong boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt has lent added urgency to encouraging expatriates to stay in the country by granting some of them more rights. Permanent residency for foreigners has been a controversial issue in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, where citizens’ privileges are guarded zealously. Expatriates make up more than 90 percent of Qatar’s 2.7 million people.
To be eligible, residents born in Qatar must have lived in the country for 10 years, while those born abroad would need to have lived there 20 years, according to the decree. A passing command of the Arabic language, proof of sufficient income and sound legal standing are also required.
Children of Qatari women married to foreigners, spouses of citizens and the children of naturalized Qataris will automatically become permanent residents. Exempt from the eligibility requirements are people who rendered “significant service” to the state and who possess special skills.
Permanent residents will be able to establish commercial companies without needing a local partner and will be able to take part in national economic projects. Permanent residency permits can be withdrawn in certain cases.
Qatar is abolishing the exit visa required before expatriate workers are allowed to leave the country, according to a decree published in Al Raya newspaper. Employers can ask that some employees be barred from leaving without prior approval “due to work necessities,” however such waivers can’t account for more than five percent of a workforce. Those prevented from traveling by employers can appeal to a committee, which must take a decision within three working days.