Gulf | Oman

Oman tightens rules on expatriate workers

Minimum salary required to bring family doubled starting this month

  • By Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau CguefBureau Chief
  • Published: 14:01 September 16, 2013
  • Gulf News

Muscat: A recent rule restricting expatriates earning a monthly income of less than 600 Omani riyals from acquiring family visas has evoked a mixed response. Some small and medium enterprises (SME) are worried about affordable manpower supply.

In an effort to create more job opportunities for the nationals, the Omani government has changed visa regulations, under which only those expatriates earning more than 600 riyals per month will be eligible to bring their wives and children below the age of 21 on ‘family joining visa’. Those on family visas will not be permitted to take up employment. The new rule, however, is not applicable for dependents already in the country on family visas. The minimum monthly salary previously was 300 riyals to be eligible for obtaining family visas.

“There are a few pros and cons to this, it will impact SMEs as well as the large corporates,” Omani entrepreneur Qais Al Khonji told Gulf News.

Talking about the positive impact of the decision, he agreed that the move will create more jobs for Omanis. “We may see some expatriates leaving their jobs as they cannot get their families here,” he said.

However, Al Khonji reckons SMEs like his will be adversely hit by the decision. “Hiring Omani staff compared to expatriates will become expensive,” he says.

He thinks that bigger companies may benefit from the rule as they can achieve Omanisation (nationalising jobs) target with much more ease.

But, Al Khonji fears that in the event of shortage of staff and inability to hire expensive Omani manpower, some of the smaller businesses will be left with no choice but to close down.

Shanavaz Ahmad, executive director at the Abdul Fatah Noor Foodstuff company, also echoed Al Khonji’s views when he said that medium enterprise like his company will suffer due to the new rule of 600 riyals minimum salary for getting family joining visa.

“We have recently employed three to four young expatriates and they are waiting to bring their families,” he told Gulf News but expressed apprehensions about the new recruits staying in job.

“They may decide to go back as their pay is not 600 riyals and they are not eligible to bring family under new regulations,” he said.

Ahmad pointed out lack of clarity about the rule. “Some companies like ours give accommodation to staff but the rule doesn’t specify how the rent will be calculated to make up 600 riyals total salary in such cases.”

He also had a different worry. “To replace them [expatriates], we will struggle to get Omani staff at that salary,” he said, adding that they have been trying to get light vehicle Omani drivers for some time but no candidate is available to work in the minimum 350 riyals salary set for Omanis by the government.

A young employee with one of the biggest group companies is also facing a similar dilemma. “A visa for my wife was rejected and my in-laws wanted me to quit my job and return home,” he said on the condition of anonymity.

He added that he has managed to convince his in-laws and brought his wife on a visit visa here. However, the young Indian expatriate said that if he cannot get a family joining visa, he would be left with no option but quit and go home.

The number of expatriates returning home could rise in coming days and many people hope this would create more job opportunities for the nationals.

Making room for nationals

- Oman first introduced the minimum monthly salary rule for ‘family joining visa’ to 300 riyals in 2011.

- Starting this month, the minimum montholy salary to bring a family, consisting of a wife and children under 21, was raised to 600 riyals

- The Omanisation percentage in the private sector at the end of August this year stood at 14.6 per cent.

- Expatriate workers in the private sector at the end of August this year stood at 1,567,832

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