On 28 January 2018 the Ministry of Manpower issued Ministerial Decision 38/2018 (the MD), implementing a six-month-long ban on the issuance of work permits for non-Omani individuals in 87 job categories in the private sector. The MD came into force on 29 January 2018.
The MD impacts jobs within the IT, accounting and finance, sales and marketing, management and human resources, insurance, media, medical, airports and engineering sectors.
The Ministry has also clarified that the ban only impacts these specific job categories, meaning that a job which is broader than, but includes, one or more of the banned categories will not be affected.
While pre-existing work permits issued before the implementation of the ban will remain valid, one particular aspect of the MD that has caused some concern amongst employers and employees alike is whether existing work permits which are due to expire during the six-month ban are renewable during this period.
The Ministry of Manpower has confirmed that renewals of valid work permits during the period of the ban fall within the scope of the ban. The result of this is that non-Omani employees whose current work permits are valid may no longer be legally able to continue working if their permits expire during the six-month ban.
It is important to note that the MD only applies to private sector establishments, and includes a specific exemption for enterprises whose owners are also full-time managers, and are registered with both the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Riyada), and the Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI).
This ban follows a number of similar measures in Oman in recent years, which have affected other industry sectors and professions. These bans have been implemented for varying reasons but one of their most important objectives is to reduce unemployment levels of Omani nationals.