Oman lifts two-year labour ban on foreign workers

The changes will take effect in January 2021

This picture taken on November 29, 2018 shows a view of the city of Nizwa from the walls of the 17th-century fortification of the same name, about 160 kilometres southwest of the capital Muscat. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)

Expatriates in Oman will be able to switch employers more easily after the country lifted a labour law that bans the practice unless they obtain a no-objection certificate.

The new amendment issued on Sunday allows an employee to move from one company to another provided they complete the two-year period set by the contract, the department of visas and immigration said.

“The foreign employees must prove that they have completed the contract with their previous employers before joining another company, but they would not need the no-objection certificate. The new rule will be implemented from January 1, 2021, ” it said.

The new rule replaces the 1996 order that prohibited foreign employees from joining another company after the expiry of their contracts unless they were granted a no-objection certificate (NOC) from their employer.

Under current rules, if an expatriate does not obtain an NOC, they are banned from working in Oman for two years.

Expatriates in Oman welcomed the reform and said it would help the country’s foreign investment drive.

“I welcome this new rule and I personally think it will help Oman realise its ambitions to attract more foreign investments to the country,” said Pakistani national Noor Saheb, 43, who works as an IT professional.

Other expatriates said the new rule would promote a free market in the country.

“The cancellation of the no-objection certificate is good for the country," said American Rachel Johnson, 27, an interior designer. "It will make expatriates move freely within the local market. This is what is needed for Oman to be seen as a free market destination for expatriates.”

The certification rule forced expatriates to stay in the same companies instead of pursuing new careers, causing stagnation, some expatriates said.

“Now that we are getting rid of the NOC, we will see a flourishing of business in Oman as expatriates will be free to change jobs after two years," Ajai Sharma, 51, an Indian real estate employee, said. "The new rule will allow them to transfer their skills to different companies and increase the business competitive mode in Oman.”

But Omani graduates see a different side to the change. They say job availability, which is currently taking a hit from Covid-19, would now be more limited.

By the end of April 2020, more than 34,000 Omani graduates have registered with the ministry of manpower for employment.

“I know in a way this is positive for the business competitiveness and economy in general, but we need to look at the other side of the coin," Khaifa Al-Harbi, 23, an Omani business graduate, said. "This will take away some of the job opportunities for us if expatriates change jobs after two years.”

Oman reported 866 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, taking the tally to 16,882 with 75 deaths.

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