How to Start a Business in Qatar

What is the reality of having to deal with government Ministries if you are setting up a business in Qatar as a foreign company? In fact, the Ministry of Economy & Commerce (MEC) is mandated to encourage business development in a way that attracts investments – they register commercial and investment establishments, issue licenses, and oversee market regulations.


The Qatar Financial Centre takes a long view at the development of Qatar and the region, and has been incredibly successful in stimulating interest in Qatar as an investment destination, achieving 31% growth in 2018, with 605 firms registered to its platform.  This includes companies that originate in dozens of countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, France, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, Philippines, India, Pakistan. The QFC Authority is the commercial and strategic branch of the Qatar Financial Centre.

QFC registered companies will enjoy benefits regarding help with repatriation of profits, low corporation tax, and double taxation avoidance facilities.


Ever since the Second Strategic Plan (2017-2033) was launched, outlining the framework for sustainable economic growth in Qatar, the emphasis has been to promote a favourable commercial climate and simplify the process for setting up businesses.  However, as a newcomer you may find yourself faced by what seems like a labyrinth of formalities and legalities: For example, a company must be registered by the MEC and apply for membership at the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


Various licenses have to be obtained before you can start trading. One of these is the Commercial Residence document, or CR. A Trade License, literally a legal office space, is also a necessity, as is a Computer or Signature Card, if you wish to issue resident permits for your employees. You will also need to establish a trading name and get articles of incorporation.  MEC also presides over compliance with Commercial Companies Law on share capital, needed to begin to set up banking functions. Taxation issues are dealt with by the Ministry of Finance where a Commercial Registration Certificate must be obtained. If you are in the import business, all goods coming into Qatar are administered by the Customs Department. 


The Ministry of the Interior presides over business visas, and the Director of Criminal Evidences department are responsible for issuing the Police Clearance Certificate (PCC), needed for matters of residential status and employment.


Appointing a service agent is vital to starting a business in Qatar, and foreign businesses planning to do business with Qatar need a representative agent to take care of government paperwork. If exports to Qatar are involved, a commercial agent may be needed. The practice is usually to set up a Limited Liability Company where the foreign entity controls 49% and the Qatari partner holds 51%. The diversity of roles performed by agents is well within the scope of Afreno’s consulting activities, as is their ability to provide a registered office or Senior Executive, in that they are registered as a Support Services Provider (SSP) through their parent company Afreno LLC.


Employees are regulated by the Ministry of Labour, which controls legal rights, restrictions and obligations of employees and employers, with employment contracts having to be drafted in Arabic, although they should also be available in a certified English copy, another service that can be provided by Afreno. Payment of wages is monitored and documented by an electronic payment system, as overseen by the Ministry and the Qatar Central Bank, and Afreno have their own salary process system which will save you a lot of time and trouble.