QATAR: Government Abolishes “Kafala” Labour System

December 16, 2016

Qatar has formally announced the end of its labour sponsorship system that requires foreign workers to seek their employer’s permission to change jobs or leave the country.

The Kafala system was introduced as a way to monitor foreign workers, with the worker”s sponsor (or Kafeel) being responsible for their foreign employee”s visa status during their employment.

Under Kafala, a foreign worker must seek permission from their Kafeel in order to:

  • Change jobs
  • Depart from the country
  • Rent housing
  • Obtain a driver”s licence
  • Open bank accounts

 The Kafeel also has the right to hold foreign worker”s passports for the duration of their employment. Additionally, the Kafeel holds the power to transfer an employee”s sponsorship to a new Kafeel without notifying the worker, and repatriate any foreign worker without giving notice.

A new contract-based system to govern Qatar”s foreign workers will replace the Kafala system in order to provide greater flexibility and protection to foreign workers.

Freedom of movement is guaranteed under the new rules, said Qatari officials, including giving workers the right to change jobs without the permission of their current employer.

The Minister of Administrative Development, Labour & Social Affairs, Dr Issa bin Saad al-Jafali al-Nuaimi, said “The State of Qatar is enormously grateful to the millions of workers who have come to Qatar to build our nation”s infrastructure during this period of rapid change. The new law is the latest step towards improving and protecting the rights of every expatriate worker in Qatar. It replaces the Kafala system with a modernised, contract-based system that safeguards worker rights and increases job flexibility”.

Workers that have justified grievances will automatically be allowed to change jobs, said officials. The exit visa formally needed to leave the country under Kafala will be abolished, but workers will still need their employer”s permission to go home.

The changes also outline increased fines for employers who confiscate worker”s passports. Any Kafeel found to have confiscated an employer”s passport will be liable for a fine of 25,000 Riyals.

For further information on this topic, or on Qatari immigration in general, please contact us at [email protected]