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The Gulf States have long maintained a series of policies to help them police and control the large numbers of expat workers flooding into the country.
For example, it is perfectly normal for expat workers who leave the employment of one company to be forced to leave the country before re-applying for another position. Only those in gainful employment are permitted.
Whilst in the past this was a major inconvenience for many expat workers, a recent change to the law promises to make the situation even tougher.
According to sources at the English-language newspaper Time of Oman, the Omani Police are now refusing re-entry for those who have previously worked in the Sultanate and then left. The new policy now prevents expat workers from re-entering the country for at least two years after their exit.
This new policy is likely to have many practical implications for expat workers and their employers. In the past, only workers who refused to complete their full contract suffered similar penalties, but now this same strategy is being rolled out to all expat workers, whether or not they left their employer on good terms.
Indeed, in the recent past a No Objection Certificate (NOC) could be applied for from an old employers which would fast-track an expats ability to sign on with a new Omani employer and re-enter the country under their new visa.
Now, such benefits have been rescinded.
The only current exception to this rule is expat workers returning to work for their original employer, where-upon the two year no-return rule will be rendered null and void.
The intention, of course, is to limit the number of workers coming into the country, and so slowly eliminate part of the expat workforce. Doing so will open up further opportunities for native Omani workers.
The problem, as highlighted by a number of expat workers, is that it essentially ties them to their employer, no matter what the working conditions might be. No longer will they be free to leave unsatisfactory employment and instead find a position with a comparable company.
Furthermore, concerns have been raised that denying experienced expats re-entry to the country – those who understand the culture, language and working practices – may result in significant losses for the country.
Only time will tell as to the long-term impact of such a policy, and whether amendments or exceptions might be made in the future. For now, however, the message is clear. Expats living and working in Oman should take note of these new laws and ensure they can do everything possible to remain within them.
Jumping ship to a new employer just got a whole lot more difficult so you would be well-advised to carefully consider your position before handing in your resignation.
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