Expatriate workers in Oman rush to apply for visa extensions before amnesty ends

March 31 is final day for applications before financial penalties resume

MUSCAT, OMAN - MARCH 25: Construction worker on a construction site on March 25, 2012, in Muscat, Oman. Photo by Thomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images)***Local Caption***
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Hundreds of expatriate workers with expired visas have rushed to have them extended on the last day of an amnesty and avoid financial penalties.

March 31 is the last day for expatriates to apply for the amnesty on expired visas.

Once accepted, the expatriates have until June 30 to leave the sultanate without paying financial penalties, a Ministry of Manpower official told Oman TV.

“The applications today for overstay amnesty is over 900 expatriates, compared to an average of around 200 a day in the last two weeks,” the official said on Wednesday.

Oman announced the amnesty in June 2020 but extended it in November.

More than 300,000 people have left the country since the coronavirus pandemic began, the National Centre for Statistical Information says.

Almost 70,000 expatriates have already applied for the extension and are waiting for final confirmation from the immigration.

But some expatriates said they would not leave Oman even after being given amnesty as they needed to send money to their families abroad.

“We have the pandemic at home,” said Indian expatriate Shammi Thalekar, 36. "There are no jobs or any means of making a living in India.

“At least here in Muscat, I do odd jobs like gardening or cleaning houses and earn enough money to provide for my family back home.

"I have already applied for amnesty today but I am not leaving Oman any time soon, even at the June 30 deadline. I need the money.”

Mohammed Jahan, 42, a Bangladeshi painter, also planned to stay beyond June 30.

“What would my wife and two children eat when I go back home?" Mr Jahan asked.

"I also have the extra responsibility of looking after my old parents. There is no way I can earn money back home.

“That was the reason why I came here to Oman. In the last year, I have been sending about 160 rials ($415) a month to my family, after deducting my expenses here.

"I know I made the overstay amnesty deadline today but I am not going back home this year or even next year.”

The Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday that about 40 per cent of all infection cases in March were expatriates, mainly from the subcontinent.

Oman on Wednesday reported 1,162 new infections, with nine deaths.

The total number of reported cases is 159,218, with a death toll of 1,676.

Sixty-eight patients were admitted to hospital in the past 24 hours, taking the total number to 515, including 156 in intensive care.

Oman is in the fourth day of a curfew, from 8pm to 5am, until April 8.