Muscat: Expatriates working in Oman’s private and public sectors must obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to switch jobs between companies, top lawyers in the Sultanate have said.
In a series of articles about Oman’s rules and regulations, entitled “Know Oman”, experts guide readers on their rights and responsibilities while working and living in Oman.
Speaking exclusively to the Times of Oman, representatives of Mohammed Ibrahim Law Firm, a leading legal office in Oman, explained the ministerial decision issued with regards to the NOC.
“NOC is not a provision of the Labour Act but has been stated initially by Article 11 of the Oman Foreigners Residence Law in no. 16/1995. The rule of this article was applied until 2005, when a ministerial decision suspending the application of the NOC (Article 11) was issued,” said Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim Al Zadjali, Chairman of Mohammed Ibrahim Law Firm.
“However, this suspension ended in 2014 after a new ministerial decision was issued – which is applicable until now – activating again the application of Article 11,” Al Zadjali added.
Moreover, another expert of the law firm stated that a new exception was added to the already existing article by the ministerial decision in 2014 allowing more flexibility to the employee(s) to work for another employer in Oman.
“This new exception allows the expatriate(s) to work for another sponsor in Oman if the previous sponsor allows him/her to get new employment after handing the NOC. This means that the NOC becomes a discretionary right of the employer, unless stated specifically in the employment contract; in that case, it becomes a contractual right,” the expert explained.
He added that it can be specifically stipulated in the employment contract that the employer will issue the NOC to his/her employee(s) at the end of the contractual period. “Based on the new exception that came in 2014, the Supreme Court has confirmed that when the employment contract mentions getting the NOC as the right of an employee(s), then he/she has the contractual right to claim it in court, even if the employer refuses to do so,” the expert said.
Before the year 2005, the NOC procedure was considered stricter as there was only one general rule and two exceptions, another spokesperson of the firm said.
“The general rule states that no working visa shall be issued to an expatriate who was working in the Sultanate, except after two years starting from the date of his/her departure. This general rule is extremely strict, meaning that even if the previous sponsor agreed to provide the NOC, the employee shall leave the country,” he explained, adding that “this general rule is still applicable unless the employee(s) gets one of the three exceptions”.
Talking about the other two exceptions, originally stated in Article 11, the spokesperson said that the first one is that the Inspector General of Customs and Police has the right to exempt the application of the two-year period, in cases where public interest requires it.
“However, the second exemption is if the expatriate returns and decides to join and work for the previous employer. This is only possible if the previous employment relationship had been amicably ended,” he said.
He added that when the rule came back in 2014 with an addition of another exception that included the agreement of the employer, it made switching between both private and public firms more flexible for expatriates in Oman.
Mohammed Ibrahim Law Firm ([email protected]) was established 11 years ago and is serving clients through its offices in Muscat and Sohar, as well as operating on a request basis in other areas, such as Duqm.
It offers legal representation across a wide range of practice areas that include labour law, corporate, commercial, contracts, banking and finance, international trade, foreign investment, insurance, maritime law, construction and engineering contracts, international arbitration, intellectual property and more.