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Oman Extends 6-Month Visa Ban for Some Professions

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As part of efforts to open the job market in Oman to more locals, the Ministry of Manpower has extended the visa ban on non-Omanis for six months in some professions in the private sector.

Construction workers and cleaners won’t get a visa for six more months starting December 2017, the Times of Oman reported. The visa ban for construction workers has been in place since November 2013, and is extended every six months.

“In 10 years, expatriates will make 60 to 65 per cent of Oman population. No one will accept to be a minority in his country,” Shura Council member Hilal Al Yahyai told Al Bakri, the Minister of Manpower, during a discussion on Omanization in January 2017, according to the report.

Al Bakri had responded at the time: “Yes, the rate of expats is higher than what we planned for, 30 per cent of population, but that’s due to development requirements of the country and the need of employees in the construction sector which is unattractive to Omanis.”

The minister also told business owners to stop “visual Omanization” by hiring locals to meet the minimum legal requirement. He urged business owners to give Omani people a real chance.

The visa ban effects the industry but it won’t have any extenuating implication as it has been there since 2013 already. Industry professionals told the publication that while the ban would affect recruitments it won’t make a big difference.

“The ban is there for something. It is to increase the presence of Omanis in the sector, and it should not be a problem for companies really. Instead, it will ensure companies make efforts to look for talented Omanis. There are so many graduates in civil engineering and other related sectors; it is an opportunity for them. It is an opportunity for everyone in the field. I understand this can be a concern for people to get expat experience, but I believe there are enough Omanis to step up,” Maaz Firdous, a consultant at Al Iskaan Engineering, was quoted as saying in the report.

Shura member Mohammed Al Junaibi had urged Al Bakri during the January meeting to lift the ban if it had a negative effect. However, the minister said that there are 163,000 Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the country, which employ only 8,000 Omanis compared to 780,000 expatriates.

From July 1, carpenters, metallurgists, blacksmiths and brick kiln workers, had not been getting visa. Construction companies, who require these professionals, said that they would have to hire locals at a higher salary because of the ban, according to the report.

Last year, the Ministry of Manpower took the decision that expats who quits their job in Oman will not be able to seek another job for two years even if they get a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from their employer. In June, the government’s Implementation Support and Follow-Up Unit on Twitter conducted polls to determine if residents agree with the two-year visa ban if expats cannot obtain NOC and found that a majority of people support the policy.