Qatar Passes Landmark Law to Grant Permanent Residency to Expats

Qatar, facing a boycott by a Saudi-led alliance, approved a draft law that will grant permanent residency cards to some foreigners, an unprecedented action among Gulf Arab monarchies that have for decades relied on expatriate labor to run their economies.

Under the law, those eligible for the card include children of Qatari women married to foreigners, those who have special talents “needed by the state,” and others who have extended notable services to the country, the official Qatar News Agency reported late Wednesday. The cabinet will issue the law’s executive regulations later.

Cardholders will be treated like Qatari nationals when it comes to state-run educational and health-care services, and will be given priority, after locals, for military and civilian public jobs, QNA reported. They also would be allowed to own property and to run certain commercial activities without a local partner.

With few exceptions, the majority of foreigners in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council need to be sponsored by locals to live and do business. Citizens, on the other hand, receive state support widely seen as an exchange for political loyalty.

Qatar passed the draft law after the country’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, instructed officials to expedite measures to lure investments and to reduce the economy’s reliance on energy after Saudi Arabia and three allies severed their diplomatic and transport links with the country in June. Addressing the cabinet at the start of Wednesday’s meeting, Sheikh Tamim also urged authorities to strengthen “the home front,” QNA said.

‘Under Siege’

Qatar is giving expatriates a “deeper stake” in a country that’s “under siege,” Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said in a phone interview.

“If you give people a greater sense of involvement, you bind them more closely together,” Ulrichsen said. The decision also could be designed to garner international support against the Saudi-led boycott by portraying Qatar as “something different in the region, tolerant, open and inclusive,” he said.

 

Source credit – Bloomberg

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