Employers in Oman must pay new visa fees - not workers: OCCI member

Business Wednesday 09/November/2016 22:09 PM
By: Times News Service
Employers in Oman must pay new visa fees - not workers: OCCI member

Muscat: Employers who force their workers to pay visa fee increases are acting illegally, a chamber of commerce member has warned.
The government announced last week that the visa fee for expat workers will be increased from OMR201 to OMR301.
But some expat workers, social workers and trade unionists in Oman worried that workers – especially blue collar workers – would be forced to pay by unscrupulous employers.
Ahmed Al Hooti, a member of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the visa fee when hiring a worker must be met by the hiring company and not the worker, amid fears that some bosses may try to pass the extra cost on to their employees.
Al Hooti said: “It is the responsibility of the employer to pay the visa fee for the worker.” He added that as it was illegal for companies to pass on the fee, it was difficult for the government to incorporate that into the new law.
Trade union leader Mohammed Al Farji said: “It’s the responsibility of the employer to pay the visa fee for the employee and it cannot be passed on to the employee. It’s a violation. If an employer needs an expatriate worker, then he has to pay.”
One way to minimize the risk to employees might be to link the scale of the fee to salaries, according to a Majlis Al Shura member.
Tawfiq Al Lawati said the government might consider “a percentage basis depending on the salary,” which, he added, would be fairer to all.
The new fee structure will come into effect soon, according to an official, who said it will become law when it is published in the official gazette.
Currently for workers in private sector, to obtain a job visa and renew one, the sponsor should pay OMR201. Now, it has been increased to OMR301.
Omani government figures for October reveal that, currently, there are 1,485,615 expatriate workers in the private sector here, excluding domestic workers, and increased work visa fees could add OMR148 million to government coffers over a two-year period.
Agreeing with the Shura member, Anvwar Al Balushi, an industrialist in Oman, said that visa fees should not be based on a flat rate system.
“The Shura member’s percentage system is good. If a company can afford an employee with a high monthly salary, then they will also be able to afford higher visa fee,” Anvwar said.
“In addition to this, government can also think of grading companies. Let small companies have the current visa fee rate and big companies have a higher rate for their workers,” Anvwar added.
In the aftermath of a severe fall in global oil revenue, Oman’s government posted a budget deficit of OMR4.32 billion ($11.4 billion) in the first eight months of 2016, according to latest official figures.