Thursday, July 17, 2014

Expatriate Visa Restrictions

Recently, Oman newspapers have reported that visa restrictions affecting expatriates would be implemented. In mid-June, the Ministry of Manpower (the “MOM”) and the Royal Oman Police (the “ROP”), clarified the position on visa restrictions on expatriates.

The MOM and ROP have stated that the restrictions in place are in accordance with the Expatriate Residency Law promulgated by Royal Decree 16 of 1995, as amended (the “Expatriate Residency Law”). Article 11 of the Expatriate Residency Law provides that, an expatriate employee shall not be granted an employment visa if he or she has worked in Oman but has not completed two (2) from the date of his or her last departure.

In the past, expatriates who have not fulfilled the above requirement were being granted new employment visas but, effective 1 July 2014 the restriction will be reinforced.

Once the two-year visa restriction comes into force, the only way an expatriate is entitled to change employment in Oman is through a Non Objection Certificate (“NOC”) from his or her current employer. The MOM and the ROP have clarified that an expatriate who has been issued with an NOC will be allowed to join another employer within Oman even before the initial contract is completed. The previous employer however will lose an expatriate visa from their quota if they issued an NOC to employees who requested to join another employer within the Sultanate.

If an expatriate employee has not completed two years after departure and is called to rejoin the same company after leaving the Sultanate, then such employee will be exempted from the new rule.

There has been much speculation relating to the two-year ban mainly highlighting that the ban will be only for those employees who do not complete two years employment with an employer before leaving and subsequently returning to work for someone else. This issue has not been commented on by either the ROP or MOM. However, we anticipate that the ROP may issue further clarification with regards to completion of an initial employment contract with an employer and its impact on visa transferability.