No more changing jobs in Oman (if you're an expat)

In a bit of a surprise move over the weekend, in today's papers the ROP have announced a shift in policy for employment visa's here in Oman. As of July 1st, 2014 expatriate workers here in the Sultanate will not be able to change employers without a 2 year absence between jobs.

This is a return to a previous policy that was in effect here in Oman a number of years ago. What isn't made clear is that with this old law/policy there was a No Objection Certificate that an employer could sign and allow the speedy transfer of a worker from one job to another. That hasn't been made clear here.

As an expatriate worker here in the Sultanate, I don't like this because it limits my options for employment, and thus life, here in Oman. Fortunately for me, I have a great job and a great employer - and long may that last. But for many, this policy shift is not going to be a good thing. As an employer here (I'm not), suddenly I have an extra-firm grip on the ball's of all my employees. What are they gonna do if I don't give them a pay rise? They're just going to suck it up, or leave the country - they certainly can't join my local competitors.

I'm all for Omanisation, there is a huge domestic population growth here and something must be done to address this issue. However I feel that Omanisation needs to be paired with much better education standards and an adjustment in the mindset of at least some Omani workers here. I can't really understand why many unskilled labour jobs here are not 100% Omanized - eg road sweepers/gardeners/garbage collectors/gas pump attendants/car washers. Surely these should all be Omanized, no?

Let's say you are an international business, looking to open in Oman, and you want to make sure you have locally experienced staff in key positions in that business - this rule stops that from happening if the key staff are not Omani, or the staff you put in place will be at the very least 2 years outside of Oman, and thus not up to pace with the current market conditions.

What do you think of this new ruling? I'm sure it's going to help increase the opportunities for Omani's to get jobs - but at what cost in the long term of the economy of Oman?

le fin.

No more changing jobs in Oman (if you're an expat) No more changing jobs in Oman (if you're an expat) Reviewed by Sythe on Sunday, May 11, 2014 Rating: 5


  1. Three words, Modern Day Slavery.

  2. I honestly like the law, and agree with MM, education standards are horrible. Cheating is sooooooooooo prevalent, levels of the books are too high for the grade so how can students manage, they have to start to cheat in some of the subjects, they are given more homework than can possibly be done without cheating in most households due to overcrowding of classrooms in public schools....... Didn't the Ministry fo education just conduct interviews with teachers across the Sultanate? Where's the action on those suggestions, hmmmmm. Why hire a panel of experts from New Zealand to consult and not do anything based on your findings.... I don't know. Drives me INSANE> {tears out hair}

    My own home country doesn't allow the import of unskilled labourers anyways, and I agree with Mr. Sythe, these positions should be 100% Omanized since obviously, the Indians, Philipinos, Pakistanis, and Ethiopians aren't getting paid as to what Westerners would condone an acceptable minimum wage for such work, and OManis would force the change in conditions. Skilled expatriates could fill the skilled positions that are vacant, and transfer of work would ease up in legislation following the reduction of unskilled workers.

    As the saying goes though, wastafarians don't want this, and Omanis aren't educated enough to know that a rise in housing construction costs, actually benefits their economy and the local job market, but what ev....

    I believe one can still take a no-objection letter from one's employer here in Oman. I did, when I began my job here, but that process is long and terrible. Also, if your employer doesn't pay you on time for than once, a transfer of working place is allowed and a no objection letter ir forced by the Ministry of Manpower.

  3. The example you placed isn’t what the actual rule/law is being applied for.

    Its for those who are looking to transfer job locally, which will not happen due to the 2yr gap.

    No more dillydallying to Dubai to get that done

  4. Hi Opno - thanks for the comment, I know that if Omani's were only allowed to carry out these menial jobs that costs would increase - and so be it. This is part and parcel of a normal economy. Heaven forbid if you have to pump your own gas!

    I didn't know about the late payment rule though, a handy loophole, if still open.

    Dalz - I think you've missed the point. How would a large company place locally experienced expatriate employees in a position if they can't change their jobs without a 2 year gap? Or how about another scenario? An expat buys a house at The Wave, has a mortgage, but decides to change their job for more money (or whatever reason). Now, they can't.

  5. Its one way of diplomatically saying "We no more need you. Please go back"

  6. Sythe: I am ok with cost increases;) ---I just mean a lot of people just don't understand that actually benefits them in the long run if the corruption in government is mitigated at the same time...;) [which Omanis might argue is not possible or they don't believe it possible].

    On that last scenario... the problem with these kind of rules is they aren't planned with exceptions. Like the marriage laws or outlawing musicians.... I understand their purpose. But they aren't planned well and hurt as well as well as help at times....

    Of course if a company paid airfare and all that to bring someone over, they should be forced to stick to the contract they were hired with so long as the terms were carried out. I am three years now, and won't move for a higher salary or anything out of purely having given my word. If my employer honours theirs, I'll honour mine. I don't consider that slavery in the least.

    However, after fullfilling a contract, if they were highly skilled, AND investors in Oman, like almost full-time residents not wiring money back to their home countries, it shouldn't hurt the economy or Omanization in the least--- so exemptions should be provided on that basis. Other local business or government would benefit from their knowledge and skill-set, so why make Oman not an option for them>>*** that is pointless.

    One thing I struggle with IN my office, for example, is I have Omanis that have the work ethic and skill set to do the job, but they don't have the degree for example (and because of culture maybe a husband who won't allow them to travel) going for additional education isn't an option. On the otherhand, I have Omanis with the degree but lazy beyond anything imagineable. I want to hire the undegreeed Omani part-time, to show they can do the work, but legislation says it is not allowed, even if they are willing.

    And so, the job goes to an expat, who is skilled, with a degree or not, who simply can be hired on the basis that they can also be fired.

    Yet there are a lot of Omani women I know who can and do deserve the work, but legislation won't let me hire them to try them, because I can't fire them even from part-time (ironic). And so they get nothing. If job-leaping expats such as myself are forbidden from transferring jobs, maybe the government will let them have a chance at these jobs one day?

    That I AM ok with so long as they don't force the companies to take the degree-toting but lazy idiot Omani person instead.

    Which is the more likely outcome, remains to be seen. Hope some more people consider this, but cutting down expats is one of His Majesty's directives for 2014, for sure.

  7. One other strange exemption I know of: a married woman (must be legally married) and pregnant can get a note from her doctor that does not allow her to travel by air, and with this she can also force a no objection letter from an employer through the Ministry of Manpower, thus staying the country without a gap. Doesn't work for housemaids or shop girls of course, but some expat business women, yes....

    It's been done;)

  8. In fact a lot of issues are not clear yet,like

    1. What happens when the employment contract is of limited duration.Say for 2 years ,1 year or less?
    2.What happens when an employee is terminated by the employer?
    3. What happens when an employer is willing to issue a "no objection certificate"?
    4.What happens to a person who wants to come back after being away for some months after leaving a job ( this happens before the change in policy)
    5.What happens to people who cancelled and went back and is awaiting a fresh visa after being offered a job.
    6.Can somebody change jobs within the same organization and group companies?
    7.What is the effect of the policy on an employee who gets a favorable verdict from a court, say against unfair or unlawful termination?
    8. What happens to the employees of a company in liquidation , is merged or is acquired or is in the process of restructuring...

  9. This new restriction is a case in point for the lack of quality education and the waste system for government employment.
    Nothing about this regulation has been thought through any further than:
    "Hey Ahmed! We need to find a way to stop employees leaving when they are shafted by us when we short-sell them on what we promised in the ad."
    "My housemaid ran away because I tried to:
    - have sex with her against her will
    - made her work a 15 hour day
    - allowed my family to verbally and mentally abuse her."

    Arse covering at its finest.
    I am sure that the US Embassy will be sending details of this latest catastrophe for consideration when looking to drop Oman back down another human rights tier.

  10. This seems to be a classic case of right analysis, wrong conclusion.

    Oman is sitting on a demographic time bomb and urgently needs to employ more nationals in the private sector to begin rebalancing the economy and maintain social stability - so far, so good.

    The conclusion is the Omanisation policy and this law is a symptom of it, i.e. stop expats already here from snapping up new roles by banning them from employment in the country if they leave an employer or are made redundant.

    Okay in so far as it goes, but you can't legislate away a skills gap in the local workforce which requires better educational standards and time served experience to address.

    The problem is that the present size of the private sector economy is insufficient to employ even those currently in the economically active age brackets. In the near future the number of local job seekers will go through the roof.

    Therefore the only viable solution is to greatly increase both the size and diversity of the national economy which requires foreign investment and the importation of certain skills, that while present in the local workforce, perhaps do not yet exist in sufficient quantity to meet the demands of certain business and industry sectors.

    Crucially then this law is likely to damage Oman's regional and global reputation as a place to invest and set up a business, particularly when neighbouring markets are liberalising labour laws and facilitating foreign investment like there is no tomorrow.

    This law seems like the polar opposite of what needs to be achieved in order to grow the economy sufficiently to absorb the newly economically active as they come into the market over the next decade.

    Oman exists within a knowledge based, highly competitive and rapidly globalising economy, where capital flows to those places where business can be most effectively and efficiently conducted. Limiting investors’ ability to employ the people with skills they need in order to create growth is a major disincentive.

    Anyone who thinks pushing out skilled expats is the answer has been asking the wrong question.

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  12. MM

    "How would a large company place locally experienced expatriate employees in a position if they can't change their jobs without a 2 year gap?"

    Key word being locally experienced expat employee

    I think what needs to be kept in mind is that as a expat the general perception is that you are someone bonded with the company that you have a contract with and are not expected to seek greener pastures locally/internally

    Don’t quote me and I am generalizing here that some use their initial jobs as a stepping board to better paying ones in the local market.

    PS Blog mentioned from a fello bloggerati

  13. When this rule was repealed some years back I thought it was connected with Oman joining the WTO and improving its human rights.
    Does that mean WTO membership no longer matters?

  14. OPNO- I totally agree, cutting expat numbers certainly is a prime objective, and it's frustrating that the system is preventing people from succeeding.

    Joseph George - From my understanding of this new announcement; 1,2,3,4,5,8 - you'd need 2 years outside of Oman before getting another job. I don't know about 6 and 7.

    Anon at 1:48pm - Well there are already rules and procedures in place to protect domestic workers. If one was raped by their employer and it could be proven, then the law will deal with that. As for the worker, yeah I dunno if they'd be able to switch jobs, from a safety point of view.

    Anon at 2:53pm - yes I am inclined to agree with you - deregulation as a stimulant to private sector economy would be an interesting experiment to see how that would work out - it's clear that the current Omanisation policies have been stifling the sector. Oman isn't seen by many internationally as a great place to invest.

    Dalz - again I think you are missing the point - why should anyone be BONDED to a company?

    Anon at 3:01pm - I thought so but I am not sure - it'd be interesting to see a response from the WTO.

  15. As I posted on Hi FM's FB page in the morning:

    It's just a stop gap solution that Oman has grown accustomed to applying. Doesn't make any real sense. They need to concentrate on regulating the unskilled foreign workforce. Just like other countries that limit foreign workers coming in only with skills they require.

    Here you're potentially losing a lot of skilled foreign workers. What you're left with is an expat recycling system. Most expats will be replaced by expats because there is not enough skilled Omani work force. And the reason for the latter is that the govt. is busy trying this sort of stuff instead of developing Oamnisation from the ground up, from the education level.

    The country needs to start churning out job ready Omanis from it's schools and colleges. Unfortunately this has fallen far behind. A lot of these produced have made it through thanks to assignments done by someone else or low passing grades

  16. My question is, what if I am on a spouse visa and want to return to work?? I will never have left the country (departure date), yet not have had any employment? What if I want to change from employment to spouse visa, will they not allow that either and tear apart families???

    This is such a restriction in personal freedom, that it will drive away a lot of innovative people. Good employees who are unhappy in their jobs due to working condtitions will leave as the cannot change jobs. The country will lose a lot of talent that is desperately needed in the development of this place. Instead they will have an influx of culturually unaware people who only come to make money and leave again.... well done, a big round of applause for such a wise decision!

  17. This is so difficult to fathom. It is a knee jerk and the wider implications will set back Oman's development by decades. Yes many have prospered at the expense of poorly paid expat workers and a stop to that is welcome. However there are many skills that Oman needs to import, and such a restrictive attitude will drive up the costs, if I can only count on a fixed job for a fixed time then I will be expensive!
    there are areas of expertise where people are mobile, and with no future Oman will not be a prime choice. Many expats see a future in Oman and contribute to the economy but who will invest? The Wave, Muscat Hills, etc. will become rental dormitories and international investment will go elsewhere.
    Vocational and skills education is sadly not well provided nor respected. Simply you cannot expect to get a degree in everything! Or if you have the means??? There has been qualification upward drift, and craft skills no longer given priority, in the drive to get a useless degree.
    Set some new requirements, for all crafts and skills, 100% Omanize the unskilled jobs but give them respect.
    Introduce multi skilling for Omanised jobs!!and pay them!!!

  18. Thank you MM for giving all the expats a platform to express their frustration. The concerned authorities are not reading the "English" blogs and not bothered about expat views.

  19. Will this law force new companies to stay out of Oman? for example when Attilla Dogan / Wood group bagged long term service contracts from PDO, invariably they would have recruited certain no of employees from the company who had performed these tasks would not be possible to bring a new set of people to perform these tasks..

  20. Unfortunately the government missed the opportunity in the mid-90s when Omanisation started becoming part of the lexicon. At that point theyt should have looked at ensuring all Omani levels were qualitative and not quantative and put a system of checks and balances in to ensure that school/Uni leavers were better positioned to enter the workforce.
    This probably would have meant increasing expat teachers and trainers for a short period but that just highlights the issue that recurs with these decisions; no long-term planning.
    There were so many options they had in terms of engaging economic and business analysts to look at the situation and develop a strategy that would mean we were far away from the cluster*ck the country is in now.
    Look at any thriving city and you will see a mix of nationalities working alongside each other to the benefit of themselves and the economy. Many countries have some sort of positive discrimination towards a local workforce but where a role cannot be filled, an alternative is welcomed to ensure a smooth workflow and continued income.
    I think the total denial of economic truths and an example of why decisions like this are made are because of the mentality shown below (from the Times of Oman):

    Nassir bin Salim Al Busaidi, managing director of Oman United Insurance, said that several companies are facing unhealthy competition due to poaching, which, in turn, increases the salary levels and operating cost of companies. "The corporate sector and the economy are suffering (when employees change their jobs for better salaries).

    It is for the benefit of the business sector," Al Busaidi said, adding, "If a company wants to hire experienced people, let them bring them from outside the country, rather than poaching from other companies. This harms the business sector."

  21. Presumably this isn't applicable to Ministries and government contractors.

    Al Futtaim Group must be wondering why they invested in this place.

  22. Expatriate life in Oman is not that easy as some people think. It takes an average of 2 years to get a driving license nowadays. By the time an expat settles into their lives, they have already committed to the country, the economy and the life. They have built their relationships, their contacts and are important in driving business within the country.

    When an expat is not allowed to move freely in the economy, the only solution is to leave. What this essentially translates is a talent drain on the economy. Someone who has been in the country for 2 or more years is aware of the rules, regulation, lifestyle and business. Imagine suddenly if the top sales people left their jobs and their companies. What would be the outcome to the business?

    Any company hiring a new person would only have to wait for the initial period while the newcomer grows accustomed to the life and work here. We all know the difficulties of a new job.

    Understanding the poaching aspect for employers is also important. I think, poaching can be controlled better with a minimum 2-year non-change restriction as they have abroad. After the initial 2 years an employee would be a free agent and it would only be fair to allow free movement within the economy.

    This will keep the valued expats in the country, prevent poaching at the early stages, while still allowing the prospect of job changes.

    Lastly, if this law is to increase Omanization, it is too shortsighted. Omanization must go hand in hand with education, business and investment, and not against it.

    I think this is fair, and all the business lobbyists that have pushed for this law need to consider this.

  23. I am a European female that has been working in a senior management role in Oman since 2008, in October 2013 I left my job to take a 6 month break and I got married. I am now on my husbands visa as his spouse. I would now like to work and was offered positions which have now vanished due to these rules, because don't forget I am discriminated against twice - once for being an expat female and also for stopping work. My previous employer gave me an NOC so I didn't need to leave Oman to transfer my visa, however I am now stuck being an expat wife and cannot return to work.


  24. Firstly, thanks MM for this blog. I am a US citizen who will be arriving in Muscat to start a job on June 1, 2014 (We've never been there before!). So, this has been a great resource for me and my wife as we prepare for our arrival in Oman.

    All this news regarding restrictive new labor laws is startling and confusing.

    I have a question for the larger audience on this blogpost.

    Will my wife, who will be coming on a "Family Joining" visa, be eligible to take up employment under these new laws, assuming an employer wants to hire her and assuming our sponsor (my employer) is willing to provide an NOC?

    Or do these new laws mean that she has to remain on the "Family Joining" visa until wel leave?

    Thanks for your attention and I think the answer to this question will have a huge bearing on whether we actually arrive on June 1.

  25. To the previous commnet Anon-- No problem, your wife can take up a job...I don't see any problem there..but please check out the opportunities that are existing in the line of profession she is into..

  26. bunch of fools making rules non-beneficial for the country ...
    should be send back to the Sur desert to look after sheeps
    ... The only job they know is looking after sheep and goats..
    They say there is a demographic imbalance Considering the ratio
    of expats to Omanis ... The true figure is Oman has the
    least number of expats 44% ... Kuwait(66%), Qatar(80%), UAE(69%)
    and it goes on .... Instead of putting the reason as a
    demographic imbalance , it should be the true reason that
    Oman doesn't have a **** to live on ....Their resources
    are running dry ..... doest host any international event..
    closing doors for FDI ....

  27. First of all. .you must accept that most of the local omani are not competent enough. I have seen most of omani people who are having "khalli balli" attitude and don't care about their jobs and responsibility.
    Ministry should also ban these kind of irresponsible local omani who leave jobs quite often.

  28. Western expats looking at potential jobs in Oman should beware of these recently passed raft of blanket expat-unfriendly laws. You will be exposing yourself to some serious career risk! If you are being compensated for it, great. If you are being 'promised' things, good luck! Things at this level here are often done in rash/knee-jerk ways. These laws do not differentiate between unskilled and highly skilled expat labour. The objective of these laws is for expats to 'sacrifice' for the large number of Omani youth (educated and uneducated) coming into the labour market. It is even said that the Omani monarch made a speech some time back in which he said: I will only be happy when there are no more foreign workers visible in Oman! I'm looking forward to the day when we see young Omanis ditch their expensive gizmos and line up for jobs at petrol stations etc paying pittance. After a few years here, I'm packing up and returning to the UK as my employer started a policy of blackmail and intimidation against expats. Basically I was told that future pay rises would be bare minimal and that my position would be up for 'Omanisation' very soon. I found that quite amusing, I have over 20 years experience in the oil sector. Let's see what happens to the Omani economy after a couple of years with these new labour rules? Next door UAE must be rubbing their hands with glee as it will mean an even bigger pool of skilled expats for them to choose from.

  29. I am an indian and am here in a company for last 1 year 11 months, where the working condition is very bad and salary is very low as compared to the work position. Now visa period ends in august 1. If i try for a job , can i get ? or remain in the same comapny? Must make this rule only applicable to those who are taking visa from july 2014

  30. Hi blog friends ..
    will it b possible for me to come back in another visa status..
    .. i m at present working in an institution thts demand a contract of 3 yrs. My 1 st visa ends n 2 nd visa period starts to complete my even though i finish contract wit my company my visa s there for another 1 yr.
    in this situation my company don't give an noc also. Can i go to my homeland n come back in my spouse visa.

    can i go to my homeland nackOman in my spose

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. Hi there
    I want to ask a query related to changing a job in oman.
    Can i change my job in oman from office coordinator to an engineer??
    Currently i have office coordinator visa...can i get engineer job as by profession i am engineer..
    Please guide me in this regard
    Will be thankful to you.

  33. i have a doubt. Can i leave Oman for holidays within the first 6 months after my visa was stamped?

  34. Please take the criticism of the Omanisation plan seriously. Please don't keep sweeping the dust under the rug.

  35. The real issue with Omanization today is that the type of expats working in Oman are actually life-time settlers and not expats per-se. They are her forever and will not allow knowledge to be passed to nationals.

  36. Hi.

    Would like to know if I am quitting my job and would want to join my husbands family visa, do I still need an NOC. Do I still need to exit or can that be done locally?


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