Recruiting Staff in Qatar: The Essentials
Recruiting staff in Qatar is quite straight forward - if you know what is required and can anticipate the seemingly regular direction changes of official channels.
Employment in Qatar: The Legal Side
The laws that govern employment are:
To get the full text go to www.moi.gov.qa and click on useful links.
Get an Allocation
The first step in the process is that the employer, assuming he is a properly registered business with a company i/d number, will apply to the Ministry of Labour for an allocation of the number of people he requires. This allocation is defined by the gender, nationality and job function of the individuals. The employer may or may not be granted the numbers and nationalities he has asked for.
It is much more difficult to obtain visa for some nationalities than for others. For several nationalities it is quite impossible. From time to time others seem to be "flavour of the month" and are offered as an alternative to those sought. The objective would seem to be based on an attempt to maintain a spread of nationalities among the expatriate community. This is important in a country where host nation nationals actually form a minority of the total resident population.
Armed with the allocation, the employer will then make application to the Immigration Department for a working visa for the individuals he requires. The interview and selection usually occurs in parallel to the allocation process. Hopefully, the individuals the employer is making an application for will fit the allocation by nationality and gender. If not, the employer will have to return to the Ministry of Labour to amend or add to the allocation.
Note here that the passport held, if different from the ethnic background / origin of the passport holder, may give reason for delay in approval and issue of the work / residence visa. However, once granted, the individual who has been granted a work/residence visa will have 3 months to arrive and take up the visa,
On arrival there is a process of confirming the residence permit and obtaining the work permit. Residence involves obtaining passport photographs, a blood test, finger printing and a medical. The entire process can take as little as week, but usually it is two to three weeks. During this time the individual under process may not leave the country. There are other formal restrictions during this period concerning the ability to have a local driving licence, have a bank account, sign a rental agreement, establish a phone line etc. In reality as long as the process is in hand there is usually a work-around.
The employee's residence is sponsored by the employer (known as "his sponsor"). The individual may only work for the employer's company. Should the individual wish to leave the country he will require the permission of his sponsor which, if he agrees, is applied for by the sponsor and granted by the Immigration Department. These may be single allowing one exit and return or multi-exit for a period of one year, during which the individual may exit and re-enter as frequently as he wishes.
With sponsorship comes the obligation to "be responsible" for the employees every action. For this reason the sponsor's signature is required to establish almost every normal requirement of living, including purchasing a vehicle, establishing utility connections and telephones. Should the employee leave the country leaving unpaid debts, it is the sponsor who will be held liable for repayment.
Families, on the other hand, are sponsored by the employee. It may seem strange, but families sponsored by the employee do not require an exit permit and can exit and enter freely. The employee, of course, is controlled by his sponsor and the assumption is that he can do damage to the business whereas the employee's family cannot and is therefore of no concern to the employee's sponsor.
In the past when men worked and their spouse / family were of the same nationality this system worked fine. In today's world, where there are mixed nationality marriages with children born in various parts of the world, and where perhaps the wife is the employee and the husband is the "trailing spouse", interesting conundrums result. The woman being "bread-winner" or "head of the household" are not concepts widely understood, accepted or even catered for in local legislation.
Changing Job and Sponsor
So you are here and working and wish to change employee. Not so fast. This requires the permission "no-objection" of the first employee (sponsor). Again not a bad thing as it does control job hopping to the original or subsequent employer's competition. Assuming this is given there is a fairly simple procedure to be followed. Again be aware you are permitted only three changes of sponsorship before it is required that the employee leaves the country, currently for several years, before they may return.
The whole subject of sponsorship, exit permits, residence, right of change of employment, right of return etc are being debated not only in Qatar but in the GCC as a whole. These subjects are closely bound to the promotion of employment of host nation nationals (in Qatar this process is known as Qatarisation) where the job market is directed towards employment of locals before expatriates. This is just as applicable to businesses that have a foreign partner as to purely local concerns. The labour law is quite specific on this matter. One assumes that this will increase in Qatar as the local population continues to grow as it has in other GCC countries.
Understanding where the pitfalls are and having a good PRO (public relations officer: an individual who speaks Arabic and runs around government office "handling " the detail of paperwork) working for you is paramount to creating a smooth ride. He should be hardworking, friendly, conversant with the requirements, and aware of their changes in interpretation if not substance .. as well as having enough presence and authority (aka Wasta) to approach more senior officials as the need arises.
... began life as an engineer before finding his true vocation as an international Businessman. He has worked in developing markets for nearly four decades, starting in West Africa and migrating (via the far East) to the Middle East in 1976. Tasked with opening and expanding new markets for English, American and French multi-national manufacturing companies he brought considerable experience to Qatar where he has assisted in and witnessed Qatar's dreams come true.
Substantial discounts are available on David's books for bulk buyers - see Qatar.pdf for details.