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Over the last few months Oman has been fighting an ongoing battle with the vast numbers of illegal expat workers present within its borders. A number of initiatives have been introduced recently to reduce the incidence of illegal workers and to encourage expat workers with expired visas to leave the country without penalty. Now, though, the government is cracking down, penalizing both workers and employers where work being done isn’t approved.
When a foreign worker gains approval to work in Oman, their visa is typically tied to a specific employer – and even a particular job role. However it seems that both employers and employees are increasingly becoming lackadaisical in the application of these rules. Some immigrant workers, it has been claimed, are taking up alternative positions to that on their visa, and a crackdown is being launched to deal with the problem.
The penalties for being caught can be severe. According to the government, anyone caught breaking expat employment rules can be fined and/or imprisoned for their crime. This penalty will be applied not just to the employee themselves, but also the employer who has offered them work outside of that for which they are approved.
Furthermore, expat workers caught carrying out a job role not specified on their residency card are likely to be forcibly removed from the country thereafter – at the expense of their employer – and banned from returning. The seriousness of working at a job without official approval therefore cannot be overstated.
There are two reasons behind this latest move. On the one hand, ensuring that strict expat employment guidelines are met maximizes the chances of meeting Omani employment statistics. In this way, the government can keep tight controls on foreign workers and ensure that Omani nations have access to jobs.
The second reason is rather more altruistic. According to sources some employers in the past have taken advantage of their expatriate workforce. There have been cases of employers luring workers into the country with paperwork and the promise of good work, only to turn around on their arrival and force them into other roles. In such cases, the expat workers are often afraid to take any action for fear of losing their income and being sent home again empty-handed.
The new initiative doesn’t just therefore protect jobs for Omani workers but also seeks to ensure that expatriate workers are also treated fairly. In this way there should be no surprises for expats entering the country for work, who can feel confident that they will be completing the tasks laid out on their residency application. After all, in cases where an employer is caught breaking these rules the penalties will be significant. Only time will tell just how effective this latest initiative will be.
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