KEY DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2017
Flexible work permit
The Bahrain cabinet announced in September 2016 a proposal for a new “flexible” work permit. This is expected to be launched in 2017, to allow workers who have overstayed their visa to legitimately work for multiple employers for up to two years. The permit would be limited to workers who have overstayed as a result of being exploited or abused by their employers. It will cost USD$80 (BD30) per month in addition to a one-time fee of USD$530 (BD200), but will not cover employees who fled from their employers or who are alleged to have committed serious offences. It also cannot be used by expats to leave their current employers. The permit will enable workers to take up temporary jobs in all sectors except those that require professional licenses (such as nursing and engineering). It is intended that the applicant for the permit will act as his own sponsor.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2016
Granting Bahrain Electronic Visas to Nationals of Specified Countries
Appendix 1 of Ministerial Decision No. 197 of 2014 was amended by Ministerial Decision 15 of 2016 and came into effect on 4 January 2016. Previously, citizens of 102 countries were able to obtain Bahrain Electronic Visas. The new decision now allows for citizens of 113 countries to obtain Bahrain Electronic Visas to enter for tourist or business purposes only.
The additional countries are:
- Côte d’Ivoire;
- Mauritius; and
- The Seychelles.
This visa is separate from the requirement to have a work permit.
Additional fees when Bahrainisation percentages are not met
Resolution No. 27 of 2016 came into effect on 29 April 2016 and states that an employer who does not meet Bahrainisation quotas is now required to pay BHD300 (in addition to the regular fees for renewing or issuing a new visa). This additional fee will not apply to employers who comply with the Bahrainisation applicable percentage. The Labour Market Regulatory Authority (“LMRA”) will collect the fees in proportion to the required work permit / visa validity period. The fees will apply to the renewal of work permits from 30th April 2017.
Medical checks for expatriates
Resolution No. 12 of 2016 came into effect on 11 May 2016. Medical check certificates for working expatriates are issued by the private health institutions licensed by the National Health Regulatory Authority (“NHRA”). Private health institutions are required to notify the public health committees of the medical check results, who further notify the LMRA. The public health committees will observe and supervise the medical check results that are conducted by private health institutions and shall have the authority to request the files and medical records to ensure compliance with procedures stipulated by the Ministry of Health.
If the private health institutions decide that an expat is unfit to work, or that he is carrying an infectious disease, the private health institution is required to notify the public health committees within 24 hours from the results date. In such event, the employer must ensure that the employee is taken to the public health committees for re-examination.
Issuance of visit visas to GCC residents
Decree No. 61 of 2016 amends Decree No. 4 of 2010 and allows residents from other Gulf Co-Operation Council (“GCC”) countries to enter with residency validity of three months. Prior to this, the residency validity requirement was six months.
No deposit / personal guarantee requirement for foresign employees
Decree No. 117 of 2016 repeals Paragraphs 1(c) and 2(c) of Decree No. 74 of 2007 and effectively cancels the requirement for foreigners and retired foreigners who had previously worked in the government or private sectors in Bahrain or any other GCC country for 15 years to maintain a deposit.
With thanks to Gordon Barr of Al Tamimi & Company for his invaluable collaboration on this update.