Settling into Qatar...what’s in store for an accompanying spouse?

Settling into Qatar...what’s in store for an accompanying spouse?

Qatar labour law imposes absolutely no restrictions on an accompanying spouse wanting to work in Doha under their husband’s sponsorship; once their spouse has obtained a Qatari ID and Residence Permit, of course.

If you are the accompanying wife, you won’t even need to obtain a separate work permit. But since employers are required to legalise the employment of all their employees, whether or not they are sponsored directly, you are required to register to work.

In order to work while remaining under your husband's sponsorship, the company extending the job offer has to acquire a labour card for you. This card will be renewed annually. Also note that you will need to request a Certificate of Conduct /Police Background check from your home country each year.

The registration formalities are fairly straightforward.

Your prospective employer should send a letter to the Ministry of Civil Service and Housing Affairs, requesting permission to employ you. Once the Ministry has consented, you may visit the Labour Department, taking with you:

  • A copy of your employment contract

  • A letter from your family sponsor granting permission to work

  • Your original academic and professional qualifications and copies

  • Two photographs

  • Original passports and ID (and copies) both for you and your sponsor (in this case your spouse).

When the registration is complete, female employees have a choice whether or not to transfer to their employer’s sponsorship should this be offered to them. Male employees are required by law to transfer their sponsorship to the employer.

There are certain benefits to remaining under family sponsorship; the first is that you will not need an exit permit from your company. That gives many expats a certain level of reassurance that in the event of an emergency they may exit the country quickly. It may also give you a level of flexibility if you wish to change companies, since your spouse, as your sponsor, provides the No-Objection Certificate.

However, it may also mean you are not entitled to all the benefits that employees under the company's sponsorship may have. Several of the allowances afforded to sponsored employees may not be offered if you are on family sponsorship. This may include annual flight tickets for instance. End of service benefits would have to be the same.

Not all companies distinguish between sponsored and non-sponsored full-time employees with respect to allowances. All benefits and allowances should be clearly set out in the employment contract.

Those are the formalities if you have already had a job offer. Of course, finding a job when you’re new in Qatar, like anywhere else, is often a mixture of luck, timing and lots of legwork.

Some useful suggestions if you’re job hunting might be to:

  • Register with a reputable recruitment agency but be wary if you are charged for their services.
  • Post your CV on websites such as gulftalent.com or networking sites such as Linkedin.
  • Use your network of friends or acquaintances to learn about upcoming vacancies.
  • Attend social events with your spouse such as family days and Ramadan iftars and in this way become a part of a larger community and network.

Freelancing is often an attractive choice and companies in the publishing or events management sector, in particular, are known to hire freelance or even part-time staff.

However, it is generally advisable to formalise the relationship through a freelancing agreement, for which a No-Objection Certificate is also required from your sponsor (in this case your spouse).

It is likely that you may be offered work deemed part-time or casual without a formal contract or agreement but this is quite risky and could lead to a fine for the company and you losing the job.

As keen as you maybe to make the most of employment opportunities here in Qatar, for a lot of accompanying wives with children there are other considerations to weigh up, such as childcare and the need for flexible working hours. For this reason, some of the jobs with longer vacations and shorter working hours, even if they offer lower salaries, are very sought after, particularly in schools.

Expat wives who choose not to work will, of course, find plenty of opportunities to socialise and make friends in Qatar by joining one of the many associations and groups or seeking out an interest group, whether sports or arts and culture. There are always plenty of ways to enjoy your experience in Qatar.