Immigration developments in the MENA Region

Date Posted:Mon, 6th May 2019

Immigration developments in the MENA Region

The Cabinet of the United Arab Emirates has adopted a decision that amends conditions for foreign nationals seeking to sponsor residence permits for their dependents.


According to the announcement, the main criterion to allow foreign nationals to sponsor residence permits for dependents will be their income rather than a profession. This suggests that the eligibility for dependents’ sponsorship may be expanded to low-skilled workers who are currently excluded from the provisions of the law. The effective date of the new law has not been announced.

Emirati nationals applying for jobs in the mainland must now attend a training session on labour regulations in the United Arab Emirates, before their employment contract is approved by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE). Emiratis employed by companies in free zones do not have to attend the training. This new requirement is in line with the opening of a number of ‘Tawteen’ service centres, designated by the MOHRE to offer guidance on rights and responsibilities of employers and Emirati employees prior to any contractual engagement, as well as new regulations on employment of Emiratis in the private sector, issued in July 2018. Similar training program for foreign nationals in select professions was introduced by the MOHRE in October 2018.


The Qatar Ministry of Interior has opened several visa service centres in India for Indian nationals who need to complete mandatory immigration procedures prior to travelling to Qatar under a Work Visa. The visa centres were opened in the following locations: Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and New Delhi.

The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs has relaxed the process for renewal of a foreign national’s Work Entry Visa in the case where it expired before the Work Residence Permit had expired. According to the new regulation, foreign nationals may remain outside of Qatar whilst their Work Visa renewal application is in process. Previously, the applicant had to be in Qatar during the renewal process.  

Foreign nationals in Qatar can now apply for a Permanent Residence Permit, as the Ministry of Interior (MOI) has launched an online process for accepting applications. Applicants can verify their eligibility on the MOI’s website. The MOI will contact applicants who meet the basic requirements to submit documents and payment of the government fee of QAR 3,000. A special committee will review the application and provide recommendations to the Minister of Interior, who will issue a decision. Successful applicants will be issued a Permanent Residence Card and will need to pay an additional fee of QAR 3,000.

The exit permits system in Qatar will be eliminated for all categories of foreign nationals by the end of this year, according to the head of International Labour Organization’s Project Office in Doha. It is expected that the existing provision in the law that allows employers to identify up to five percent of their headcount who must obtain their sponsor’s pre-approval for departure, will also be removed. Last year, the exit permit requirement was waived for those foreign nationals who fall under the provisions of the Qatari labour law.


The Ministry of Manpower has extended the suspension on the issuance of new work visas for workers in construction and cleaning services for another six months, effective 25 April 2019. Employees in the affected industries will still be able to renew their existing visas. Additionally, the list of companies that the suspension does not apply to has been expanded and now includes employers in free zones.

Middle East

Government offices across the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia will be working reduced hours during the month of Ramadan, which may affect processing times for all immigration applications. Foreign nationals and employers should expect processing delays which can continue in the weeks following Ramadan. This year, the month of Ramadan is expected to last from May 6 until June 3 or 4, 2019; however, the exact dates depend on a lunar sighting and are expected to be announced for each country separately.