Qatar plans to allow some expatriates to obtain permanent residency, state news agency reported, in the first move of its kind among Gulf Arab states.
A draft law approved at a cabinet meeting will allow permanent residence to the children of Qatari women married to non-Qataris, as well as expatriates who provide outstanding services to Qatar, the Qatar News Agency reported on Wednesday.
“According to the provisions of the bill, the minister of interior may grant a permanent residency ID to a non-Qatari if they meet the conditions specified in the law,” the cabinet statement carried by the agency said.
Gulf Arab countries have a high number of expatriate workers but do not allow naturalisation of foreigners, except in rare cases.
Qatar has a population of 2.7 million, including some 300,000 citizens, and has been reluctant to extend residency rights out of concern for the demographic balance.
Holders of the new permanent residency can for the first time access free state education and healthcare. They will also have the right to own property and run some businesses without needing a Qatari partner.
In June, four Arab countries including Saudi Arabia imposed sanctions on Qatar, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”, a charge it denies.
A work-sponsorship system widely enforced in the Gulf and known in Qatar as “kafala” requires foreign workers to get their employer’s consent to change jobs or leave the country.
QNA said a committee would be established at the interior ministry to review requests of granting permanent residency ID in line with the provisions of the law.