We explain how the process of getting a work permit in Qatar as an expat works, including sponsorships, applications, and costs.
Qatar is a hugely popular destination for expats, and operates a relatively streamlined work permit system. This guide covers the key elements of getting a work permit in Qatar for expats considering moving there. It includes the following sections.
- Working in Qatar
- Work permits in Qatar
- Types of work permit in Qatar
- Applying for a work permit in Qatar
- Costs of work permits in Qatar
- Changing or renewing work permits in Qatar
Working in Qatar
Qatar attracts expats from all over the world, and Qatari nationals make up just 15% of the state’s population of three million people. Demand is continuing to rise, too. In fact, forecasters predict the state’s population could swell by a further 300,000 people by 2030.
Research by one Qatari network found that 94 different nationalities live in Qatar, with workers from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Egypt being the most common. A total of 40,000 US expats and 22,000 UK expats live there.
Expats moving to Qatar often work in the chemical, gas, and petroleum sectors, which may come as little surprise given that oil and gas account for more than half of Qatar’s GDP.
The majority of expats moving to Qatar find a role either through international recruitment agencies or within their own companies. Businesses in Qatar must prove there are no unemployed Qatari nationals who could fill a position before it can be offered to a foreign national.
Work permits in Qatar
Anyone wishing to work in Qatar must first obtain a Work Residence Permit (sometimes known as an RP). Your Qatari employer will handle the application on your behalf.
Your employer should arrange a temporary visa, which will allow you to enter Qatar while you wait for your Work Residence Permit to be granted; a process that can take up to four weeks.
Once you have received the Work Residence Permit, you can begin to start your life in Qatar. At this point, you will be able to rent or buy a home and access government services.
Work Residence Permits are issued by the Ministry of Interior, and your employer must renew your permit each year.
What does a Qatar work permit look like?
Your Work Residence Permit will contain a host of information about your residency status in Qatar. It will include your name, nationality, and passport number, as well as specific details such as the type and duration of the permit, the expiry date, your profession, and the name of your sponsor.
Types of work permit in Qatar
In addition to the Work Residence Permit, the following types of visa are available for expats traveling to Qatar:
Family Residence Visa
Once you’ve got your residence permit, you will be able to sponsor your immediate family members to live in Qatar with you.
Each family member will need to have an individual Family Residence Visa. As part of the process, you will need to submit documents including marriage and birth certificates and proof of your employment. You can either apply at the Foreign Ministry or online through the Qatari government’s portal.
You can purchase Family Residence Visas for anything from one to five years. The fee is currently QAR 200.
Qatar business visa
Qatar business visas are designed for employees working in Qatar for a short period of time and must be sponsored by a government-approved company.
Business visas are valid for two weeks, but this can be extended to four weeks. If you want to work beyond this time, you will need a work visa. A business visa currently costs QAR 200.
Qatar work visa
Qatar’s work visas are arranged by your employer and are valid for between one and three months. These are most commonly used by employees who are intending to work for a business in Qatar for a set amount of time.
To get a visa, you will need to have an employment contract in place, which has been approved by the Ministry of Labour. You will need to exclusively work for the company during the period in question and leave the country once the job has been completed.
As with a full Work Residence Visa, you will need to undergo medical tests and fingerprinting. The cost of this visa is currently QAR 200.
GCC resident visa
Residents of countries in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) who work in an approved profession can gain a one-month visa through a Qatari embassy.
This can be renewed for a further three months. To get a GCC visa, you will need to be a national of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, or Oman.
Visa waivers are available to visitors from many countries, allowing visa-free holidays to Qatar. If your country isn’t on the list, you will need to get a tourist visa. Tourist visas are designed for people visiting Qatar for leisure and are initially valid for two weeks (this can be extended to three weeks).
To get a tourist visa, you will need to pay a fee of QAR 100 and provide proof of a hotel reservation in Qatar or evidence of a relative residing in the state. You will also need to provide a copy of your passport.
Longer tourist visas of up to three months can be available, but you will need to apply at a Qatari embassy in advance.
Qatari employment law is very much in favor of the employer rather than the employee. This is borne out by the fact you will need to obtain an exit visa if you want to leave Qatar. Before leaving the country, you will need the consent of your employer to terminate your work contract. An exit permit costs QAR 10.
Permits for working women in Qatar
A woman living in Qatar with a Family Residence Visa must gain approval from her husband to register to work. This can usually be done without needing to apply for a separate work permit.
Applying for a work permit in Qatar
To obtain a Work Residence Permit, you will need to supply a series of documents and undergo a medical examination.
You must submit a passport and ‘good conduct certificate’ from the country that issued the passport. In addition, you need to send a certificate providing evidence of academic qualifications, which must be translated into Arabic.
When you supply documents they must be certified by your country’s embassy and provided to the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
To complete your application you will need to book a medical examination, which will test for hepatitis and HIV. The results of the test will be sent online to the Criminal Evidences and Information Department. Finally, you will have your fingerprints taken.
Costs of work permits in Qatar
A Work Residence Permit in Qatar can be quite expensive. However, the good news is that your employer will usually pay for it on your behalf.
The employment entry visa to get you into the country costs QAR 200. There is a further fee of QAR 500 to convert this to a Work Residence Permit.
The costs of other visas are generally around QAR 200, as stated earlier.
Changing or renewing work permits in Qatar
Your employer can renew your work permit for between one and three years through the government’s Residence Services portal. Approved employers have Qatari Smart ID cards which allow them to apply online.
Applications to renew a permit can be made three months before the current one expires. The fees are as follows:
- QAR 1,000 for employees sponsored by companies;
- 500 for family sponsorships (for your spouse and children);
- 300 for employees on personal sponsorships.
Those renewing visas for three years can benefit from a 20% discount on the above fees.