Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Another day another definition. It’s a bit telling that with all these conflicting definitions and opinions coming from various “official” sources from within the Government of the Sultanate of Oman that no one appears to have a clear idea of what is going on. Perhaps it's all been lost in translation.

The night before last the Ministry of Manpower weighed in and clarified the situation over twitter, and then yesterday, as reported by the national press today, the MoM and ROP then re-clarified the situation with a slightly different version (pulled from this ToO story):

The Ministry of Manpower and the Royal Oman Police (ROP) confirmed to Times of Oman that the only way an expat worker seeking to move employers can avoid being forced to leave the country for two years, even if they have completed their initial contract, is to obtain a NOC from their current employer. However, the ministry and the ROP clarified that an expat worker with an NOC can transfer companies inside Oman, even before that initial contract is complete.

The article then goes on to report:

But the rules mean that company bosses must choose between giving the certificate and then being unable to hire another expat, thus reducing the number of foreigners the business can employ, or refusing to issue the NOC.

This, right here, is incorrect reporting. Not only is it incorrect, it’s what I might deem either the result of a not particularly bright journalist, or someone looking to cash in on some sensationalism. It’s wrong and silly whatever way you look at it, and here is why:

Labour clearances are only valid for 15 months from the date of issue – you don’t get to keep them past this time, you have to re-apply. When an employer takes on an expat, they employ them in the specific position that their labour clearance is for – eg an accountant would be hired as an accountant – and not an Engineer.

Should the employee then decide to leave their job, the visa is cancelled – it would be cancelled anyway. Should the employee decide to leave their job and seek another job within Oman, their visa is cancelled and a new one would be required. Here is where the confusion is; what this new ruling is saying is that at this point, unless your previous employer signs a NOC, you have to cool off for 2 years before returning to work in Oman.

Getting back to the ToO article, it then goes on to say:

An official at the Ministry of Manpower confirmed, "In case an expatriate worker exits the country after getting his visa cancelled, the employer is eligible to get a visa in place of that employee. However, if the expatriate worker goes to new company with an NOC within the country, the old employer will not get a visa in his place."

And what this article doesn’t mention is that an employer can only replace an expatriate worker on the original labour clearance if it happens within 15 months of the issuance of the original labour clearance. It’s a pretty big bloody thing to miss out - unless what the MoM are saying is that now labour clearances are permanent and last forever.

Both the ministry and ROP also confirmed that even if an employee completed their initial contract and they wanted to quit their job and leave the country, they could only return to work in Oman within two years if they had already secured an NOC and used it to get a new visa with their new employer before exiting the Sultanate.

So, if you are changing jobs and you have a NOC, don’t leave the country until you have a new visa sorted out – fair enough.

If not the expat must stay away for the two years. The only exception to this rule is if the expat who has left the country is rejoining his previous employer. In this case an NOC is not necessary.

Well, yah we got that bit, this allows large multi-national companies to move their people in and out at their will. Shell, Oxy and BP will be pleased I’m sure.

Now, I’m certainly no learned authority on this but I think I’ve managed to figure it out. Probably not. But hey it’s my blog and I’m gonna roll with it – please tell me where I’m wrong, I’m more than happy to change things so we get it right and have something to refer to. I should also point out that a NOC (in it’s old format) is only useful for an expatriate worker to change jobs that are the same – eg a plumber can only be a plumber – you can’t change job types. Which means that those people who are, lets say, employed as an artist inside of an advertising agency, and they move to another advertising agency but their new role is as a media buyer, or something not an artist, then they can’t do that, and so it’s a 2 year holiday for them. Also, just because you get a NOC, your new employer must still have a valid labour clearance for you, you don't keep your existing visa, you get a new one, which requires a separate labour clearance - this is not a new thing.

So the real issue here is the abuse of NOC’s and their issuance by employers. Technically, once an employee has been working for 15 months, that labour clearance can’t be re-applied to another expatriate worker anyway, and so if the Contract period is 24 months, then there is no ethically fair reason why an employer wouldn’t sign a NOC. One could argue that an employee could pay off the pro-rata balance of costs incurred to put them in that job in the first place (to be totally cleared over 24 months if a 24 month Contract was the original duration) and then get the NOC. The problem here is employers that do not want their employees to go to their competition, and so out of nothing more than spite will refuse to sign a NOC – which was the main reason why the NOC requirement was dropped before anyway.

As an anonymous commenter on another blog post of mine from yesterday stated earlier today:

“Anonymous said...

well.. Look at it this way
Try to recruit a maid from the East Asian Countries.
You will need to pay at least 1000 OMR to get one
Example you are an SME and you want to get 10 workers for a restaurant. you will need to spend at  least 10,000 OMR to get them

Some workers come here from these countries they dont consider that their sponsor paid at least 1000 OMR to get them from their country to Oman. They depart to another restaurant or company after few months and then the SME is forced to pay again at least 1000 OMR to get his replacement and again and again.

I know that the rule is a bit harsh and i totally agree with that but it wasn't forced until everything was a mess”.

    May 14, 2014 at 2:15 PM

That kind of explains the reason for this revision in visa policies from the perspective of an employer. Of course I’m putting on the blinders and skirting the whole issue of investing in employees so they don’t want to change jobs, but this is the situation that SME’s are getting hurt by the most.

The other thing I wanted to write about today regarding this ToO story is that the journalist quoted a number of people’s names in his article. On the front page of a National paper. On a touchy subject, in which he has misreported already. Yet this journalist did NOT ask permission of those people he quoted. And the quotes he lifted? They were from a discussion from the Muscat Where Can I Find CLOSED Facebook group. Classy Fahad, classy.

In tomorrows papers we’ll all read how expatriates can drive more than 1 car at any one time after todays announcement stating expats can’t have more than 3 vehicles registered to their name in an effort to reduce traffic congestion. Because that totally makes sense.

What a week it's been.

le fin.


Anonymous said...

Cue the Benny Hill music.....

Anonymous said...

Two quick points: first of all, the "replacement within 15 months" option seems to be dead, if it was ever there.

We had an employee leave one month after joining us, and the authorities sternly informed us that a labour clearance is strictly for one-time use. A clearance may be valid for 15 months from the date it was issued; all that means is that the clearance must be used within that period. Once used, it's gone. To hire a replacement for the employee who quit we needed to either use an additional clearance (if we had one lying around) or else we had to apply for a 'replacement' clearance.

This brings me to my second point. A 'replacement' clearance application requires supporting documentation of which the most important is proof of exit of the employee who has quit, through the 'visa cancellation' procedure a departing expatriate goes through. No exit? Then, no 'replacement' clearance (and therefore no visa for anyone recruited to fill the vacancy created by the departing employee).

What this means is that an employer who gives a departing employee an NOC (thus allowing him/her to transfer to a new employer without actually leaving the country and then having to wait two years to return) also gives up the ability to obtain a 'replacement' clearance. Some employers may not mind; I think that most will, and NOCs are going to be hard to come by!

Cheers - = Desert Leopard

Dalz R said...

I am giving up on this one and defiantly not going to use ToO as a valid source

What if your boss is a **** (choose appropriate word) and doesn't issue a NOC?

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Dalz R: Like he doesn't pay you, or forces you to work longer than the time on your contarct, or even pays you late----you visit the Ministry of Manpower, prove your case, and force a letter of no objection from him. I did it. It can be done but takes bloody forever, and makes your new employwer wait like three months before you can start working again.

It was worth it for me, but hard since I overstayed my visa and passport expired while in the middle of this process. The ROP were actually really kind about it, and only fined me 10 OMR when it should have been a lot more... but I think they don't run things clearly... so no one knows the correct process.

Anonymous said...

Hey there. Yup, Desert Leopard is right. The 15 month validity for a clearance is ONLY to fill that clearance - in other words, once you get the clearance for whoever - Managing Director OR housemaid, you have 15 months to find the person. This CAN be extended on application but it's dicey - the argument being, if you've lived without them for this long, why do you need them at all?
The NOC issue then is indeed aimed only at reducing the number of overall clearances and therefore visas issued. The visa must be cancelled or you can't apply for another clearance and they certainly won't give you an extra one. So for the last couple of years, even if you wanted to shift people between companies that you owned, you had to go to the expense of cancelling their visas, sending them home reapplying for their new visas complete with medical (and nowadays the new rules mean that as NO ONE can transfer from a visit visa to a work visa WhILST IN THE COUNTRY ... the company still has to reapply for the persona's original clearance (which they may not get, depending on what is particularly in fashion at the moment - eg if it's a woman, forget it for now). So moral of the story would be, no company, no matter how well intentioned, would be inclined to issue an NOC for an exiting employee UNLESS they have an Omani waiting to take up the position ... or definitely they won't get another clearance. Wheras if they DON'T issue an NOC, but cancel the visa anyway; they have a good chance at least if it's in a profession that is not swamped with Omani candidates. Such as working for the baladiya ... the thing that gets ME about all this is that surely of the million or so expats the vast majority must be construction workers and the like ... who surely are in no position to change jobs even if they wanted to ... so how successful is this pogrom going to be in terms of reducing numbers overall? not very. IMHO; but it will indeed lead to an overall brain drain of the people whom actually we probably need the most ...

grrrrrr said...

I think you got a point wrong their Sythe.

100% sure.. that when a company gives a NOC they loose clearance for that position. When a worker leaves the country his individual visa is cancelled at the airport (that is his work visa). Separate to that the company also has a clearance for the job type/position that he did (for an expat to work in that role). This remains open for another expat to fill when he leaves. If a NOC is issued the company loses clearance for that position as there still exists an expat with a NOC to do the same job elsewhere.

In effect the company is saying 'We don't need a burger flipper etc', he can work elsewhere'. and another company takes on a burger flipper. The company can change their expat roles.. but they have to apply to change it. Even if they are sure they can get another expat clearance, it is far more messing about than just keeping the old one.

I have been told outright I cannot have a NOC for this very reason (and the company has never issued one to any employee).

and yeah.. knowing some local reporters. I know they are no more informed than you or me.

grrrrr said...

ohh.. i basically agree with the second comment. NOC's will not be issued.

Its just a joke

ALIF KHAN said...

What Anonymous posted in first comment is perfectly right. In early days when this ban was still on. Two terms was used LOCAL RELEASE and NOC.
1-Local release is the kind of NOC which allows employee shift locally without leaving country. Companies did issue to employee having good relation or making them redundant.It used to be issued with name of specific companies to which employee was making move, but yes the employee did loose its labor clearance on that.

2- NOC this is type of NOC which employer issues to employee after he exits the country and use to be open ended like having NOC to come back to Oman and work with any company at any post etc. etc. Usually issued only after employer gets in replacement clearance and your friend or employer to be collect from your previous employer
on your behalf

Anonymous said...

Can someone give me some clarity on the rule

Recently when i resigned from my Job, this Rule has popped up.

Now my employer has denied to give me NOC because of changed rule. In my current company employee who left were given NOC. but now due to changed rule i have been denied.

I have some doubts about rules, does anyone have answers.

Whether this rule is applicable on people who exit before 1 july 2014.

Whether if someone get a clearance can get before 1 July and exit can get visa after 1 july.

whether Family member Visa also get cancelled along with My visa if i exit.

anyone has any solution to my problem?

Anonymous said...

If someone exits oman after employment visa cancellation in june 2014 can he return before june 30 2014.his previous employer has given a noc when he was leaving in june? Please shed light on this

Anonymous said...

Any latest information on Female expat work permit? I hear there is a temp ban and am still waiting for a visa to a secondment position that is scheduled to begin in September :(

nancy john said...

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Jessie said...

Question. What if you got terminated and the company decided to provide you with NOC but not a local release. You found another job with their employment visa. Is it possible to exit and come back and work for the new company? Providing you get the other NOC of course (no local release)?

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