News Details

Immigration developments in the MENA Region

Date: Sun, 14 Oct, 2018

Immigration developments in the MENA Region

Updates relevant to Foreign Nationals and Foreign Residents across the MENA Region


United Arab Emirates

Effective 2019, foreign nationals seeking to retire in the United Arab Emirates will be able to obtain a renewable five-year residency visa, according to the announcement by the Cabinet of the United Arab Emirates. The new visa will be available to applicants above the age of 55 who meet the following eligibility criteria, among other yet unannounced conditions:  

  • Investment in a property worth a minimum of AED two million in the United Arab Emirates; or
  • Financial savings of no less than AED one million; or
  • Active income of at least AED 20,000 per month.



Foreign workers in Qatar will no longer require an exit permit to depart the country during the validity of their employment contracts, according to a new law approved by the Amir of Qatar in September. The new law stipulates that employers will have a right to request for the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs to require select employees (based on the nature of their work) to obtain their sponsor’s pre-approval before exiting Qatar. The number of such workers is limited to five percent of the total headcount of the company. The effective date of the law is yet to be announced.


Foreign nationals may soon be able to obtain permanent residency in Qatar, as the law regulating this matter has been approved by the Amir of Qatar. A special committee will be formed for providing recommendations to the Minister of Interior who will adjudicate applications and will issue appropriate decision. Qualifying foreign nationals will receive a Permanent Residency Card and will benefit from various rights, including property ownership in select areas and investment without having a Qatari partner, among others. The law limits the number of Permanent Residency Cards to 100 per year, with the possibility of increase in the future. Government fees and other details of the application process are expected to be announced in the coming months.


Foreign nationals from select countries seeking employment in Qatar will soon be required to complete some immigration procedures before travelling to Qatar. The process will take place at designated service centres located in the applicants’ home countries, and will involve medical examination, biometric data capturing and signature of employment contract, among others. According to the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, job seekers from Sri Lanka will be first affected by the new process, effective October 2018.

Saudi Arabia

Effective 11 September 2018, employment across four sub-sectors within the retail sector in Saudi Arabia has been restricted to Saudi nationals only. Foreign nationals are prohibited from working in forty-three different professions.


Foreign nationals holding commercial and work visit visas for Saudi Arabia must now enter and exit the country according to the mode of travel specified in their visa sticker (typically through an airport). Previously, visitors were required to enter according to their visa terms only at the initial entry, while any subsequent entries and departures to/from Saudi Arabia could be done either through a land border or an airport.


Effective immediately, visitor visas for dependents of foreign residents in Kuwait are issued with a validity of three months, instead of one month, as previously. The validity of all other categories of visitor visas remains unchanged (one month).


Effective immediately, employers in Iraq are required to pay a refundable security deposit against every foreign national worker. According to a recent decision of the Council of Ministers, the amount of money to be paid depends on the employer’s category and it ranges from IQD 100,000 to IQD 1,000,000 (USD 84 to USD 840). All security deposits must be paid to the Ministry of Interior (MOI) in Baghdad, unless an approval has been obtained by the employer to allow for the payment to be arranged to a regional MOI office elsewhere. Employers must pay the security deposit before the MOI can issue visa invitation letter which is necessary for the procurement of an entry visa.


Foreign nationals seeking employment and residency in Egypt are now required to schedule an appointment with immigration authorities for submission of a residence permit application. The appointment must be made with a branch in the location of foreign national’s employer. Applicants should account for a waiting time of up to 30 days before the paperwork can be lodged. This may affect any travel plans and the overall time necessary to complete the immigration process. Previously, there was no appointment system in place and the residence permit application could be lodged at the time of visiting the immigration department.