Muscat: Oman is getting serious on expatriate labour as the latest move to limit foreign workers adds to a raft of legislation which in recent months has tightened the screw on the Sultanate's employment market.
There has been a mixed reaction to the Royal Oman Police's announcement that expat workers who leave their jobs will not be able to return to the country for two years.
Many voices have welcomed the move but others, notably foreign workers, have expressed confusion and insecurity.
One major question remains over whether expats who get a 'no objection certificate' from the current employer can work for another sponsor.
The Times of Oman has learned that the Ministry of Manpower has not yet decided, with an official saying, "We are looking into this matter."
As the government moves to reduce the expat labour force from 39 per cent to 33 per cent, which could number in the hundreds of thousands fewer foreigners, a host of new rules have been introduced, including:
Expat workers cannot bring their spouses or children to Oman until after six months service
Hiring expats for the construction sector or domestic staff has been banned
Hiring expat women in many sectors has been banned
Raids on expat homes suspected of housing illegal immigrant will be carried out by a new joint task force of the Royal Oman Police, the Ministry of Manpower and Muscat Municipality
A cap of the number of foreigners deemed to be from 'negative nationalities' has been proposed by the Municipal Council.
The 'two-year ban' on expatriate workforce in Oman is 'positive' and definitely benefits the private sector, according to a senior official at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI).
"The decision will help the private sector as it will help minimise the number of hidden businesses that are taking advantage of the current situation," Redha Juma Mohammed Ali Al Saleh, vice-chairman for administration and finance affairs at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), told Times of Oman.
And Chairman of General Federation of Oman Trade Unions, Nabhan Al Battashi said that this decision would help regulate the job market.
"This will also prevent expatriates shifting from one place to another which is sometimes not justified."
But Ramesh Mani, chief executive officer of Majan Glass, which employs 240 workers, said, "A professional has every right to sell his services.
"This restricts choices of companies in taking people and the companies may end up in losing," Mani said, adding; "It is not going to be a win-win situation for neither the employee nor the employer."
Column: Will the 2-year ban work in the best interests of Oman?