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New restraints on the employment visa issuance procedure in Oman

Guiding Principle

Amendments to the Omani Residency Law on issuing employment visas for expatriates will be implemented from July 1, 2014.

Additionally, the Ministry of Manpower on April 15, 2014 extended by another six months a ban on employing expatriate construction workers and housekeeping staff in the private sector, which was in force since November 2013.

I. Employment of foreign nationals in the Sultanate

The Omani Labour Law encourages the recruitment of Omani nationals to the maximum possible extent, and in furtherance of this objective, the Ministry of Manpower specifies the proportion of nationals that are required to be employed in each private sector. Subject to compliance by a company of its own targets, it may recruit and employ expatriates. In the event that a company fails to meet its targets, it is liable to the imposition of penalties and/or suspension of its rights to obtain employment clearances for expatriate employees.

Any person employed in Oman contrary to the provisions of the immigration laws could expose the concerned parties to imposition of monetary penalties and loss of residency rights. Expatriates may not be employed unless the employer has obtained both a residency permit and employment clearance for the employee.

Minimum benefits in accordance with the Omani Labour Law must be accorded to employees. Employer may provide more benefits but, in case of conflict in interpretation of benefit, the superior benefit prevails.

An employment contract is required to be in writing and must include the names of employer and employee, employee’s date of birth, qualification, place of residence and nationality, job description, salary and notice period. In addition, the employee must undertake in the contract: (i) to abide by the terms and conditions of contract; (ii) to respect Islam, laws of country, customs and traditions; and (iii) to refrain from interfering in any activities prejudicial to security of country.

If the contract does not provide for duration, it is deemed to be for an indefinite term. For non-Omani employees, term of work permit (i.e., two years) would be deemed to be the contract term. Law permits, but does not require, a probationary period which may not exceed three months. Either party may terminate the contract during the probation period by serving seven day notice to the other party prior to the intended date of termination. Where a contract is for an indefinite term, any party may terminate by serving a 30-day notice (if wages are paid on a monthly basis) to the other party specifying reasons. Notice may be waived if compensation equivalent to employee’s wage for notice period is paid by the party waiving the notice.

Upon termination, the employer must pay an end-of-service benefit calculated on the basis of half month’s last earned basic salary for each year of the first three years of service and one month’s basic salary for each of the following years.

II. Recent changes to the process of employment of expatriates and transferring the sponsorship within the country

The Royal Oman Police (ROP), in coordination with the Ministry of Manpower, has announced the recent ministerial directive introducing a ban on issuing employment visas for expatriates, who have previously worked in the Sultanate and not completed two years from the date of last departure after leaving a company.

However, similarly to the cases of transferring the sponsorship within the Sultanate from before the amendments introduced in May 2014, a release letter from the former sponsor and approved by the Directorate General of Labour is required to obtain the new employment permit. If an employee is already working for a company for a period of two years and would like to shift to another company, he or she will be facing a requirement of obtaining a no objection certificate (NOC) from the parent company as per the existing rules of the Expatriates Residency Law and the concerned ministry is bound to approve the transfer to a new company. All violations, including the delay fine must have been settled while the new visa application is being submitted.

Subsequently, if the employee fails to get an NOC he will be forced to leave the country and according to the above mentioned announcement made by the ROP he can return to the Sultanate on a new employment visa only after completion of two years abroad. Additionally, for expatriate workers who are accused of committing illegal acts the ban is permanent and they  will not be allowed to apply for a new position the Sultanate.

III. Hiring expatriate workers in construction and housekeeping jobs in the private sector

Initially introduced in November 2013, ban on hiring expatriate workers in construction and housekeeping jobs in the private sector  was extended by the Ministry of Manpower on 15 April 2014.

From May 4, 2014 the extension of the original directive came into effect, in continuation of a six-month long ban which was due to expire on May 1, 2014.
The ban has been prolonged after reviewing the needs of the expat labour market.  This decision is based on recommendations from the Committee of Sectorial and Contractors Association, nevertheless the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are exempted from the ban based on an agreement between the Ministry of Manpower and the Public Authority for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises.

April, 2014 Catherine Jaskiewicz
Meyer-Reumann & Partners, Oman Office
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