Well here we are on day 2 since the news broke about the upcoming change in employment visa laws and it’s clear that there are two camps on this issue: The unhappy camp, and the happy camp. The unhappy camp is primarily made up of expatriate employees, while the other one is mostly Omani’s and employers. Not really rocket science there.
We’ve all had more time to think about this news and I’ve come up with the following observation to this change in policy.
There are so many suggestions and questions that have come about as a result of this announcement and quite rightly people deserve answers. What some people appear to not quite comprehend is that even though there are expatriate workers here in Oman, many have made their lives here and some even call it home.
I’ll go into some suggestions that I should hope would at least be considered and commented upon (obviously not here, but I mean publically) by the concerned authorities, but before starting I’d just like to point out what is currently fact. Come July 1st (or is it June 1st now), no expatriate workers will be allowed to change their employment visa without a 2 year hiatus from the Sultanate. Lets not dress it up or sugar coat it, it’s a clear message: You work the job you came here on (or are currently in) and then you go. That’s it.
My questions/suggestions on this ruling are the following:
1 1) If an expatriate is a property-owner in the Sultanate and desires to change job, they now can’t. What happens if an expat property-owner loses their job due to Omanisation or simply weak market conditions and their employer has to cut staff or even wind up? It beggars belief that these people would not be granted the right to seek an alternative job. This policy change effectively destroys the ITD property market – only a fool (or a someone looking for a holiday home or a retiree) would make a decision to purchase personal property in an ITD here now. Granted there is still a market for international investment houses, but the demand is weakened in an already weak market. I wonder what property values at The Wave and Muscat Hills are going to be at in a year? My suggestion is to grant exceptions to all expatriate property owners in the Sultanate so that they may change their employer if they choose too.
2. 2) If an expatriate is brought to Oman by a company to do a job, and they fulfil the terms of their Contract, why should they have to leave Oman if they want to change jobs? They have completed their Contract, they are locally experienced and would be an asset to any employer and by extension the economy of Oman. It should not be a minimum of 2 years’ service for an employer, it should be the terms of the employment contract, and whether it’s been fulfilled or not. I am an internationally experienced consultant with significant experience in my field here in the Sultanate. Once I complete my contract with my current employer, what right over me do they have to prevent me from seeking work with another company here in Oman? The obvious answer is none – if you don’t want to work for that company anymore, you can leave – you just can’t stay working in Oman. But that’s not really very fair to workers, nor particularly well thought out for the local market in general. This policy effectively guarantees a brain drain of the long term expatriate skilled workers here. It also is a clear message to foreign workers looking to move here that there will be little career advancement whilst working here. But here is my real question (which I’m sure will go unanswered by the powers that be): What is the logic in allowing a company to seek and receive an employment visa for a foreign worker for exactly the same position that would be given to a locally experienced expatriate worker who has completed the terms of their current employment Contract? This is exactly what the point of the No Objection Certificate was for previously, but obviously it was abused by unethical employers who refused to sign it simply as a f*ck-you to the employee that wanted to change jobs.
3. 3) What if an expatriate is married to an Omani and wishes to change their job? Again, here, I feel an exception should be made, and not on a case by case basis. Be upfront and have clear rules: If you are married to an expatriate, you can change your job. The current policy means that the ROP and Ministry of Manpower would rather split up families than allow people to change their jobs. Sounds harsh and far-fetched – but is true.
1. 4) If an American citizen who has been working here in Oman has, due to the Free Trade Agreement with the USA, successfully setup and registered a business here, how would they change their visa? It seems pretty clear to me that an exception would have to be made or this would be breaking the FTA, no?
There’s plenty of other questions but for me, these are my big 4. To a lesser extent this policy change means it’s going to make it even harder for expats to obtain loans (which many use to pay the ridiculous demand of 6 to 12 months rent upfront) which will have a knock on effect on rental prices here too. Which means Financial and Property markets are going to suffer as a direct result of this.
I’m not against the policy shift in general, it will certainly slam the door shut on those that job-hop, but I think we all know why this policy shift has been announced; and it’s not to “protect” employers interests. Time will tell, and perhaps we’ll see revisions. Nothing is ever set in stone.
So, enjoy Oman while you are here, because the adventure that is the Sultanate of Oman will end for all of us expatriates eventually. For those of you “expatriates” who are born and raised here in Oman and call it home, my heart goes out to you.