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:
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.