Muscat: Waiting times for labour visas in Oman must be cut from months to just five working days, according to the government’s Tanfeedh programme.
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The think tank plotting out a roadmap for Oman’s future also revealed that temporary visas could soon be issued to workers in certain sectors – a first for the country.
At the moment, visas can take up to 12 months to be processed and migrant workers have to come to Oman on specific full-time work visas for a period of two years.
The moves to speed up - and free up - the labour market have been welcomed by industry.
The government plans to introduce a ‘one window” approach to visa clearance, according to Tanfeedh, which would “reduce labour clearance process from months to five working days” in an effort to “improve the current process of doing business and free flow of human capital from application to issuance of visa.”
Business houses, senior industry officials, employers, industrialists and manpower recruitment agencies have all welcomed the move.
“The current practice is delaying labour clearances. It is a bit complicated. If it is streamlined and can be done in five days as proposed by Tanfeedh, then it would be a blessing for the companies,” Ahmed Al Hooti, an official at Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Times of Oman.
Representing Tanfeedh labs, Shahswar Al Balushi, CEO of Oman Society of Contractors (OSC), said that reducing labour clearance processing days to five and allowing employers to bring in temporary workers will help the Oman job market.
“Of course, it would be a good move for the companies operating in Oman, and bringing in temporary expatriate workers on six month and nine month job visas for specific jobs, for example in oil and construction, will help the companies in saving costs,” Al Balushi said.
On the temporary workers proposal, the OCCI official said it would help companies to save money.
“If a company needs workers to carry forward a project for a short period, they don’t have to hire them on a two-year visa and take care of their salaries and other benefits for a long term. Short term hiring options will help the companies financially,’ the OCCI official said.
Anvwar Al Balushi, an industrialist in Oman, said that neighboring countries and other developed countries have one-window systems for labour clearances and so Oman should also have it.
“We should have a one-window labour clearance system as early as possible, and the duration should not be five days. A system should be developed that it can be issued in one day. Now, we have to run pillar to post to get the paperwork done for the clearances. Such delays will not help in attracting foreign investors,” Anvwar said.
An investment advisor said that the one-window system will be good news for investors.
“Investors come to do business. They look for simple and easy procedures. If Oman is going to implement the one-window system for labour clearances, then I am sure that the investors will be very happy to come to Oman,” Anchan CK, the investment advisor in Oman, said. Rajeev KR, who runs a manpower recruitment agency in Muscat, said that sometimes it takes months to get the required clearances.
“Clients push us a lot to get it done in days. However, sometimes, delays occur. If it can be avoided, employers will be happy and they can start their work on time,” Rajeev added.
Abdul Gafoor, general manager at Al Shabibi Global Construction Company, said that getting labour clearances on time was a big hurdle so far. “If government implements the one-window system and reduces the number of days to five to process the visas, then it would be a blessing for us. Many a time, we have felt reluctant in taking up new projects because we were doubtful of getting labour clearances,” the general manager said.
“In addition to this, permission to bring in temporary workers is also a welcome move,” the general manager added. Tanfeedh is unveiling 121 proposals to the public this week and unveiled its plans yesterday at the new convention centre. The proposals are the results of a series of “labs” where public and private sector bosses cut through the red tape of Oman to create a road map for the Sultanate’s future.
These initiatives are the result of six weeks of discussions attended by more than 250 officials from 160 government and private institutions at Tanfeedh. The Tanfeedh process is Oman’s solution to issues surrounding a non-oil future for the Sultanate, bringing together private and public sector agencies to streamline doing business in the country and to iron out problems.