Professional services firms face potential red light on expat recruits in Oman

04 January 2019 3 min. read

The Omani government is implementing a online work visa system for private companies which will quickly determine whether they are meeting their local employment obligations, with professional services firms facing ongoing restrictions on employing foreign labour.

In support of employment nationalisation efforts, a key pillar of the economic transformation programmes underway in the GCC and known locally as Omanisation, the Omani government’s Ministry of Manpower is rolling out a new online system for the processing of foreign work visas based on a traffic light system – with stop, go or slow signals given according to whether a firm has hit its local employee targets.

The move comes amid a raft of regulatory changes and foreign visa crackdowns, aided by the digitisation of Oman’s business and employment registries, with an ongoing freeze of expat labour in some 87 professions and enterprises being given until the end of last year to update their registrations in the commercial database. Among the professions subject to the ban are those in the engineering, accounting, finance, IT, insurance, administration and HR sectors.

The Manpower department had previously stated that the moratorium would only apply to new positions, and not the replacement of existing foreign employees, but it’s unclear how the new system will affect the employment of foreigners, with online visa applications being met with a red light should a company have not reached its local employee quota. Omanisation targets in the insurance sector for example have been set at 75 percent by the end of this year.Consulting firms face potential red light on expat hires in OmanUnder the system being rolled out for online expat visa applications, companies which have met their targets will receive a green light to proceed with the application, while those that haven’t will encounter a red light. Yellow signals will be issued meanwhile to companies that have unclear Omanisation policies, which will need to be clarified with the Ministry before they are allowed to continue. Companies have been previously required to submit their Omanisation plans with the ministry.

“The system depends on the Omanisation index of the private establishments (and) enables the establishment to view its Omanisation index electronically and thereby identify the obligation to be fulfilled regarding Omanisation and the number of Omanis to be hired,” a ministry spokesperson told the Times of Oman. “If they achieve the maximum Omanisation rate, the licence application will go directly to the accreditation stage.”

The new system is part of a wider plan to institute a commercial permit service which will be will be linked with other government departments such as the tax office. “Some other authorities are involved in the process of verifying that businesses meet the regulatory requirements of those entities automatically and without the need to raise documents from those entities.” Khawla Al Junaibi, a project manager of the Ministry’s advanced manpower management systems, told the Times.

In a separate article for the news publication, KPMG Lower Gulf Human Resources Operations Manager Merzy Daruwala noted the success of Omanisation initiatives to date, but urged ongoing education development and greater public-private sector cooperation. “Omanisation is a national objective and requires support from all ministry and government authorities. This necessitates a holistic and integrated approach, coordinating efforts between the government, employers and employees, to facilitate constructive dialogue and foster partnerships,” Daruwala stated.

Recently, KPMG was banned from taking on any new auditing work for one year in Oman.