First real estate residency permits issued in Qatar

by Ray Clancy on April 19, 2011

New rules for residency and property ownership

Qatar has issued its first residency permits to non-nationals following a new ruling that allows foreign homeowners to substitute a sponsor for property ownership.

Only a few people have applied so far for the permits but it has been suggested that this is likely to surge in coming years as more people want to buy property in the country in the run up to the FIFA football World Cup being held in 2020.

The Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning said less than 100 have registered seeking ownership of real estate properties since the issuance of the decree last month. A spokesman said that they represent a wide range of nationalities including Arab, European, American, Canadian and Asian.

He also said that many foreign companies had shown interest in buying residential towers in Doha taking advantage of the new rule. ‘We expect to register the first tower owned by a non Qatari by May,’ he confirmed, adding that two foreign firms already own several towers in Doha.

Most of the residential units sold to foreigner were in Al Sadd, Al Muntazah, Najma and Um Guwailina. The prices varied from QR650, 000 to QR1 million per unit, depending on the area and the location.

The first five properties owned by non-Qataris were registered in 2009. There are certain conditions for non Qataris to buy and own properties under the new decree. Foreign buyers must first hold a Qatari visa and can buy on the basis of a 99 year renewable basis.

Residency permits for them and their family will then be granted once the paperwork is completed. There are, however, restrictions on where foreigners can buy and there are currently 18 locations including Musheireb, Fariq Abdul Aziz, Doha Al Jadeed, Old Al Ghanim, and areas around the Doha International airport.

The change effectively means that the property acts as a sponsor whereas under the old rules a foreigner needed to have a human sponsor, such as an employer, to obtain a residency permit.

Other changes mean that foreign workers arriving at the new Doha International airport due to open next year, will be able to complete all formalities for residency permits on site. Currently obtaining a permit can take weeks as it means visiting different places to complete the formalities.

The ministry is also considering putting permit facilities in the offices of major companies for the benefit of their new workers who arrive from abroad.

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