Expats who wish to work in Qatar require a sponsor to do so. This sponsor is typically their employer. Expats can only work for their sponsor and for nobody else for at least two years. After that time period and with a clearance letter from their sponsor, they are allowed to find a new employer and transfer their sponsorship.
Expats should choose their sponsors wisely as they have a lot of power over foreign employees. For instance, they can refuse to issue the necessary exit visa which allows expats to leave Qatar or ban them from returning to the country for two years. However, there are limits. Sponsors cannot hold on to their foreign worker’s passports, for example, unless they need to complete important paperwork.
Once expats have found a sponsor, they are in turn allowed to sponsor their own family. For instance, fathers can sponsor their sons until they are 25 (if they are still students) and their daughters until they get married.
However, you have to receive a certain salary and save up some money in order to sponsor your family. Many expats will have to travel ahead to have their own residence visa processed before they can bring their family along. This may take up to two or three months.
Be sure you have a clear understanding of the financial challenges an assignment in Qatar may bring. While all salary payments are tax free, the cost of living can be comparatively high. Many foreign employees have struggled to get by on their salary. Others have sent their family back home when they realized that they could not cover the costs.
Work contracts are a tricky business in Qatar. Many expats never receive a contract or never get to sign it. In other cases, foreign workers agreed on certain conditions only to find out that their contract was changed upon their arrival in Qatar.
Each work contract has to be attested by the Department of Labor. Contracts may be written in English as well as in Arabic. Do not rely only on the English version, as only the Arabic one is referred to by the Department of Labor in case of a disagreement between employer and employee.
Foreign workers and employees are subject to Qatari labor law and enjoy certain rights. For instance, employees should work no more than 6 days per week. More than 8 hours of work should be paid extra, and employees should not have to work more than 10 hours per day at all.
In reality, however, these rules are often disregarded. If this is the case, you can report the situation to the nearest labor department. Make sure to refer to the Qatar Labor Law in order to support your complaint.
Expats should be especially careful when consulting international recruitment agencies. In some cases, these agencies have charged expats a hefty fee for placing them within a company. Their debt-ridden candidates often realize too late that their Qatari jobs do not pay enough to cover the costs. The creditors often put a lot of pressure on these workers, not shying away from threatening their families.
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