Three key development that employers in Oman need to be aware of include:
1. Two-year entry ban
The Royal Oman Police (the "ROP") has announced that expatriate employees who leave their job in Oman and vacate the country will not be able to re-enter the country for a period of two years following their exit, even if they have a no objection certificate ("NOC") from their former employer.
This ban already existed under Article 11 of the Oman Foreigners' Residence Law, which states that a foreigner may not be issued a work entry visa if he has previously worked in the Sultanate until two years have lapsed since his last departure (the Inspector General may waive the ban if it is in the public interest). However, the NOC was previously accepted as an exception to the rule. By rejecting applications even with an NOC, the ROP is now showing a far tougher stance on the matter.
Employers are advised to be mindful of this restriction, which may cause significant delays in the recruitment of expatriate employees who have previously worked in Oman. Where possible, employees should be recruited from within the country to avoid such re-entry restrictions.
2. Work permit restrictions
The Ministry of Manpower ("MOM") has extended its temporary ban on issuing new work permits for workers in certain categories. Industries affected include:
- sales and marketing
- camel keeping
- aluminium / metallurgy
- blacksmithing, and
- brick work.
The bans were initially brought into force in 2013 and have been extended on a temporary basis each 6 months since.
The bans are not applicable to:
- establishments registered under the excellent grade category
- international and consulting grade companies
- establishments carrying out governmental projects
- establishments owned by a full-time employer registered in the General Authority for the Development of Small And Medium Enterprises; and
- insured parties in the Public Authority for Social Insurance.
Additionally, the bans only apply to the issuance of new visas. The renewal of existing visas will not be affected.
3. Illegal working crackdown
Government raids on employers who are suspected of employing individuals without the correct working permissions have intensified. According to information released by the MOM, around 500 people were arrested for working illegally in Oman during May 2016 alone.
The penalties for employers who violate labour and immigration rules can be severe. Under the Oman Labour Law fines may be imposed of up to OMR 2,000 for each illegal worker. Additionally, the worker must be repatriated at the expense of the employer and the employer may face a ban on recruiting new expatriate employees for up to two years.
Employers should be mindful of the requirements for each of their employees and ensure that their workforce has the correct working permissions in order to avoid penalties.