Expatriate visa ban to cover more sectors in Oman
November 25, 2018 | 9:51 PM
by Times News Service
‘Sons of the soil’ move in Oman is similar to what the US and European countries are doing to prioritise jobs for their own people, say experts

Muscat: Oman’s Ministry of Manpower has extended the ban on issuing employment visas to expat workers across some professions, as the government actively pursues its policy of Omanisation.

The professions included are those of purchase and sales representatives and workers in the construction, cleaning, and workshop sectors, meaning that companies in these fields will no longer be able to receive new permits in order to employ people for these jobs.

The move from the ministry is the latest addition to the freeze on expat visas, which was first issued across 87 professions at the end of January 2018, and then extended for another six months last July.

According to the ministry decision number 487/2018, “Permits for non-Omani manpower will cease to be released for the next six months for the following professions: Sales Representative/Promoter, Purchase Representative. Permits for the replacement of existing employees will continue to be released.

“This law will apply to all private establishments, replacing the earlier decision. Finally, this law will apply starting from November 30.”

Saif Al Badi, head of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Al Dhairah Governorate headquarters, was hopeful that this visa ban would be temporarily lifted so as to help upcoming businesses in the country.

“We were hoping the visa ban for these jobs would be halted or opened for a temporary period but the decision is exactly the opposite and that will not attract entrepreneurs to start businesses in these sectors,” he told Times of Oman.

Balram Manji, an HR consultant in the country, said that what Oman was doing was in keeping with global practices, where countries around the world gave preference to their own people. These “sons of the soil” programmes are established internationally and Oman is also going the same way.

“I know there are some people who will not like this, but the reality is that the government will always take care of its people first,” he revealed.

“It is very similar to what the US and many European nations are doing in terms of prioritising their own people. For example, in America, before the Bureau of Immigration proceeds with any visa issuance, they always ask the company in question if there is an American who will do the job. These ‘sons of the soil’ programmes are very common in other nations and Oman is also doing the same thing.”

“The immigration laws in many first-world nations are now being tightened and it is becoming more difficult to emigrate to many countries, because they realise that they need to give priority to their people,” added Manji.

“If you look at the US and the scaling back of their H1B visa programme, that is the best example.”

With the government also looking to add more jobs to the existing workforce through its Tanfeedh programme of economic expansion, young Omanis such as Mazin Al Balushi, who recently set up his own business, said that young Omanis now needed jobs, adding that many of his friends were fresh graduates.

“Many of my friends and I are recent graduates, and we have been looking for jobs for a while,” he said.

“This is a good move because many young Omani people want to enter the workforce and haven’t had the opportunity so far. The government has many programmes for the future and we are hopeful that we will get jobs.”

“Many of us also want to set up our own businesses, and the government has said that the rules will not be so strict for SMEs so this is also a good sign,” added Al Balushi. “We hope this means more work will be available in the future.”

Country’s welfare

John Kurien, an expat, working as a manager in Oman, added that companies needed to follow the rules, because the welfare of the country was always a priority.

“There are unfortunately some companies that bring workers on one visa and then make them do another job, but this is not the way,” he said.

“We must follow the law because sooner or later you will get into trouble if you don’t. The government is doing what needs to be done to help its citizens.”

“Many Omanis are hardworking and dedicated, and they need to be given a chance at their jobs, so this will help them do that,” added Kurien.

“We have many talented Omanis in our team and they work hard. A majority of Oman’s population is quite young so the government will need to look after them.”

An expat businessman, Mohammed Munim, said that he would face difficulty in finding staff.

“There are certain skills that we need to develop among the local population that we don’t have yet, and it will be difficult for me going forward,” he said.

“I really hope the ministry will handle these on a case-by-case basis because I will have to see how to run the business going forward.”

The visa ban was extended for workers in the construction, cleaning, and workshop sectors, which are not in demand among the Omani youth. According to Ministerial Decision No. 122/2014, the occupations concern workshops involving carpentry, aluminium, blacksmithing and brick work.

Al Badi commented: “Most Omanis do not want to work in these sectors, especially construction, so business owners will face difficulty in finding manpower. Also, we have to take care of market conditions and the difficulties that the businessmen have faced to get permits to bring in expat employees, as the jobs, which allow for hiring expats are limited. The Ministry has to support the entrepreneurs, who work at their own expense by facilitating their licences and granting them exemptions.”

Article 1 of the Ministry of Manpower’s decision also shed further light on this.

“The period of suspension of the permit to bring in the non-Omani labour force temporarily into establishments of the private sector operating in the construction and cleaning works specified in Ministerial Decision 122/2014 shall continue for a period of six months starting from December 1, 2018. The period of suspension of the permit to bring non-Omani manpower into private sector establishments operating in the sectors specified in Ministerial Decision No. 122/2014 shall continue for a further period of six months beginning on January 2, 2019.”

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