Qatar’s new immigration laws allow foreign companies to establish themselves at the moment for three jurisdictions although it is estimated that they will be more.
Next we will expose the main legal requirements of immigration for foreign commerce. This may vary depending on the jurisdiction. Although often overlooked, which in many cases can later lead to higher administrative and financial burdens.
Of the three existing jurisdictions Most of the foreign companies in Qatar are «mainland companies» registered under the Ministry of Economy and Commerce («MEC»).
These companies can be 100% foreign owned or jointly with companies in Qatar. Whatever the case, the immigration process is regulated by the Ministry of the Interior («MOI») and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs, department of labor.
As foreign companies they should consider registration under the MEC which requires the company to obtain special approval to hire foreign workers from the labor department, sign local employment contracts with their employees and participate in the Wage Protection System («WPS»).
The main task of WPS is to verify that a Qatari work residence permit holder receives a salary through the payroll of the Qatari entity in accordance with his Qatar employment contract.
The Qatar Financial Center («QFC») serves mainly to facilitate the registration process for specialized financial companies. Although lately, QFC has begun issuing licenses for companies more widely in various business fields, including legal services, electronics, consulting services and energy-related services. Companies registered under QFC, which are 100% foreign owned, will be exempt from approval by the labor department, to register in a Qatar employment contract and participate in the WPS. They will benefit from an immigration office at the QFC’s immigration site, along with simplified applications and simplified procedures for their residence visa for dependents.
The Qatar Foundation, in the free zone of the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is a high technology business park for international technology companies and an incubator for new technology companies. The QSTP allows foreign ownership to be 100%, its strict regulations allow companies in the technology and science sector to register only under their jurisdiction. Immigration, QSTP shares the same QFC regulations of the requirements to obtain visa approval in the labor department, in the records of the employment contracts of Qatar, and of the WPS.
Although we should consider that the processing is faster and quicker in the QSTP family residence visas compared to the QFC.
The opening of new Investment Free Zones Since the imposition of the blockade on Qatar by other states of the GCC, has caused the State of Qatar has shown more willingness to expand and open new investment routes for foreign capital that will include new Free Zone jurisdictions of Investment will relax the immigration and labor regulations at the end of 2017, Decree Law 21 of 2017 was issued, which modifies the provisions in Law No. 34 of 2005 of Free Zones of Investments in the economic zones of Hamad International Airport with assets for value of QR50bn by express order of Emir HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. They plan to open more free zones in the new port of Hamad, near the industrial area and near the city of Lusail.
In these free zones for investors we are given the freedom to choose the legal form and ownership structure of the project, an exemption from restrictions on the origin of capital, simplified import and monetary mechanisms, greater freedom in transactions.
Companies can set the prices of their products and profits will enjoy exemptions from capital goods, product requirements and import and export rights.
Little is known about the immigration policies for the newly established Free Zones. These matters will be managed by the Free Zones Authority, which controls the jurisdiction over labor and immigration matters. It is expected that soon more establishments of free zones will be established with more relaxed immigration processes.