Oman extends its ban on expat work visas

Oman extends its ban on expat work visas

Oman extends its ban on expat work visas

With Oman now extending its existing ban on expat workers in many employment sectors, what’s the future for job security in the GCC?

The existing ban on expat professionals applied to the engineering, accounting and finance, IT, technical, human resources, media, insurance and several other sectors, and was initially introduced for a period of just six months. Since then it’s been extended once and has now been extended again along with the addition of less-skilled jobs in sales and purchases as well as in the construction, cleaning and workshop sectors. The new ban will come into force from tomorrow, November 30th, and now applies across the entire private sector.

According to the government, the ban is aimed at reducing unemployment amongst young Omanis, but many business owners fear it will also put an end to start-ups in the sectors affected. Prominent business leaders are now concerned the ban will stifle entrepreneurs with the new business ideas and innovations now much needed as a support for the oil-dependent economy. The ban is similar to those already in force across the majority of GCC countries, especially in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait where anti-foreigner sentiment is being actively encouraged by lawmakers and rulers.

Oman’s justification for its increasing Omanization is that it’s a similar move to what’s happening in the USA and Europe as regards prioritising nationals against incomers, but the West is far better placed to provide qualified, experienced and willing professionals than the GCC countries due to its advanced education systems. In addition, young people in the oil-producing nations of the Middle East are used to not having to work due to extensive social security payments or are not prepared to work in jobs which are considered demeaning.

When Oman’s initial ban was introduced early this year, the immediate result was an exodus of expatriate workers, with the emirate losing some 43,000 more expatriates during its first five months than in the same period last year. The extension of the ban and its inclusion of more sectors will result in an increasing number of foreign workers returning to their home countries and is expected to hit hard on local businesses providing services to the expat communities. For Western expat professionals on relocation to multinationals’ headquarters in Oman, it’s not great news, as it affects the perception of the emirate as a hub for secure jobs.

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