Qatar on Wednesday became the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council to grant expats permanent visas to non GCC member states.
The decision, issued by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will allow for a maximum of 100 expats a year the right to permanent residency.
The residency will give the chosen expats the right to a plentiful welfare system and will give them rights that were once only reserved for Qatari citizens, who make up just 10 percent of the country's population.
Those granted a permanent residency are also able to open their own businesses without the need for a Qatari guardian, known as a kafeel. They will also be allowed to take part in national economic projects.
But in order to be eligible for the new scheme, the applicant needs to have a sufficient command in Arabic, proof of income and a clean criminal record.
Non-Qatari residents who were born in the country must have lived in there for a minimum of 10 years, while expats who were not born in Qatar need to have lived there 20 years, the Emir’s decree says.
The move came as Doha announced expat workers involved in the building of 2022 World Cup stadiums in Qatar will be permitted to leave the country without exit visas from their employers - a move seen as the first step by the Qatari government to end the controversial kafala system, under which 1.5million construction workers face being trapped in the country because their bosses won't give them the necessary paperwork to go home.
In all, there are more than 20 million migrants, mainly from South Asia, working across the Middle East under the kafala system in both construction and domestic labour.
The tiny Gulf state of Qatar has previously been criticised for its treatment of migrant workers as it prepares to host the World Cup, with kafala being singled out as a system that allows unscrupulous bosses to keep workers in servitude.
But the 2022 tournament is being presented as a catalyst for change; a showcase of Qatar's progress and development.
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