Qatar became the first country in the GCC to grant permanent resident visas to expatriates from non-GCC member states. The declaration, issued by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will permit a maximum of 100 expats a year the right to permanent residency in Qatar.
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The permanent residency will give the selected expats the right to a lavish welfare system and will give them benefits that were only reserved for Qatari citizens, who make up just 10 per cent Of the nation’s population.
Those awarded with a Qatari permanent residency will also be open their own businesses without the need for a Qatari sponsor or a kafeel. They will also be allowed to take part in national economic and industrial projects. However, in order to be eligible for the permanent residency, the candidate needs to have an adequate command of Arabic, proof of income and a clean criminal record.
Non-Qatari residents who were born in the country must have lived in there for a minimum of 10 years, while expats who were not born in Qatar need to have lived there 20 years, the Emir’s decree says.
The move came as Qatar declared foreign workers involved in the construction of 2022 World Cup stadiums will be permitted to leave the country without exit visas from their employers – a move seen as the first step by the Qatari government to end the contentious kafala system, under which 1.5 million construction workers face being confined in the country because their bosses won’t give them the required documents to leave the country.
There are over 20 million migrants largely from South Asia, working across the Middle East under the kafala system in both construction and domestic labour. The tiny Gulf state of Qatar has previously been criticised for its treatment of migrant workers as it prepares to host the World Cup, with kafala being singled out as a system that allows unfair bosses to keep workers in bondage. But the 2022 tournament is being presented as a catalyst for change; a showcase of Qatar’s progress and evolution.