Doha: Expatriates who have lived in Qatar for 25 years and are able to speak Arabic can apply for Qatari citizenship, a local daily reported on Monday, quoting a senior public security official.
Brigadier Ahmad Hussain Al Haik, Deputy Director of Public Security at the Ministry of Interior, was quoting as saying on the front page of the Peninsula that Article 2 of Law No 38, 2005 that regulates Qatari nationality specifies four conditions for an expatriate resident in Qatar to apply for citizenship.
A minimum of 25 years' residence, a clean criminal record, good knowledge of Arabic and good living standard are the four conditions to apply, the official was reported as saying.
"Article 2 of Law No 38, 2005 specifies a resident should be based here for 25 years, with gaps not exceeding six months, to be eligible to apply for Qatari citizenship. In case of the gap being more than six months, the Minister of Interior has the authority to waive it," said the paper.
"The other condition is that an applicant enjoys a good reputation and has not been convicted of any crime whether in Qatar or the country of his origin. He should have a reasonably good standard of living and should possess sufficient knowledge of the Arabic language .... However, priority is to be given to applicants whose mothers are Qatari nationals."
Although the new law was issued in December 2005, it is the first time officials have spoken to the media on the conditions necessary to obtain citizenship, an issue particularly important in view of the country's first parliamentary elections to be held next year.
However, applicants interviewed by Gulf News said they were sceptical about implementation of the new legislation.
"I am of Iranian origin and I was born here. I have applied without any result, as have many of my friends. They will never give us nationality, it is just mere words," said one man.
Another Iranian, whose mother is a Qatari, said he had applied but with no result.
"It was made clear to me that unless you know someone influential you cannot get citizenship. I have been living here all my life with my family and it is sad to realise we are treated like second-class citizens."
Mohammad Fuad, legal consultant to the National Human Rights Committee, told Gulf News the new legislation opened the way to many long-term residents to gain citizenship, although their numbers were uncertain.
Qatar, a gas-rich country with barely 800,000 residents, has a national population estimated at only 180,000. Diplomatic sources say there are thousands of residents of Iranian, Saudi Arabian and Yemeni origin who would be eligible for citizenship.
A residence of a minimum of 25 years, a clean record, good knowledge of the Arabic language and good standard of living are the four preconditions to apply.