Oman expat visa ban extended to more professions

The visa ban has been imposed on various industries since January 2018. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 27 November 2018
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Oman expat visa ban extended to more professions

  • The initial visa ban was imposed for just six months, but was extended
  • The ban is part of the Omanization project aimed at getting the local population into work

DUBAI: Oman’s government have announced plans to extend the ban on issuing visas to expats wanting to work in the country, national daily Times of Oman reported.

There has been a ban on issuing employment visas in 87 professions since January 2018, which was initially in place for six months, but was later extended.

Now Oman’s Ministry of Manpower has extended the ban to include purchase and sales representatives and workers in the construction, cleaning, and workshop sectors from Dec. 1, 2018.

The existing ban, which was extended in July, already covers a number of industries including media, engineering, accounting and finance, IT, insurance, technicians, administration and HR.

Ministry decision number 487/2018, states: “Permits for non-Omani manpower will cease to be released for the next six months for the following professions: sales representative/promoter, purchase representative. permits for the replacement of existing employees will continue to be released.

“This law will apply to all private establishments, replacing the earlier decision. Finally, this law will apply starting from November 30.”

In June reports showed Oman’s expat population had dropped 2 percent in the first five months of the ban – that’s 43,000 fewer expats than the same time for the previous year.

The aim of the visa ban is to help reduce unemployment among Omanis, but some business people fear it might discourage start-ups in these fields of work.

Saif Al Badi, head of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Al Dhairah Governorate headquarters told the Times of Oman: “We were hoping the visa ban for these jobs would be halted or opened for a temporary period but the decision is exactly the opposite and that will not attract entrepreneurs to start businesses in these sectors,”

The Omanization drive is part of a government’s push to recruit more of its own citizens, a similar push is underway across the GCC where countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have also been trying to increase the number of locals in employment.

Balram Manji, an HR consultant in Oman, said the new rules were in keeping with the growing trend around the globe.

“It is very similar to what the US and many European nations are doing in terms of prioritizing their own people.

“In America, before the Bureau of Immigration proceeds with any visa issuance, they always ask the company in question if there is an American who will do the job.”


Saudi Arabia real estate reform ‘on the right track,’ housing minister tells conference

Updated 17 min 6 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia real estate reform ‘on the right track,’ housing minister tells conference

  • Financial Sector Conference is designed to showcase Saudi Arabia’s finance industry to a world audience
  • The most eye-catching was a plan by the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s real estate finance sector — crucial to the ambition of a home-owning economy under the Vision 2030 strategy — is maturing rapidly, a high-profile event in Riyadh heard on Wednesday.
“We’re on the right track,” housing minister Majid Al-Hogail told attendees on the first day of the Financial Sector Conference, designed to showcase Saudi Arabia’s finance industry to a world audience.
His comments came as financial institutions in the Kingdom announced a raft of measures to encourage more home ownership.
The most eye-catching was a plan by the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC) — owned by the Public Investment Fund — to issue up to SR3.75 billion ($1 billion) worth of sukuk, or Islamic bonds, this year to finance home ownership plans.
Fabrice Susini, chief executive of the company, said SRC had spent SR1.2 billion buying mortgages from local mortgage finance companies and adding liquidity to these firms. SRC is often compared to US home finance group Fannie Mae.
Reform of the financial infrastructure of the property market is regarded as crucial to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plans, to ensure an ownership rate of 70 percent in the privately owned housing market by 2030.
In a panel entitled “Mortgages: Bolstering Industry Appetite,” Al-Hogail spoke of the unique position Saudi Arabia has in the housing market, highlighting the relevance of a database established by the Ministry of Housing to give a better and deeper understanding of the market. The diverse nature of the market presents its own challenges, he said.
“Every city has its own different set of challenges and we can’t generalize. With the establishment of the database, it provides the ministry with a better future outlook through more detailed information, obtained through various means — whether it were through the Electric Company, through the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, or through the General Authority for Statistics and their surveys.”
“Over 16 government agencies support the housing sector to achieve Saudi Vision objectives, to increase property ownership among Saudis to 70 percent by 2030,” he said.
An official report for the first quarter of 2019 revealed that the finance market reached SR5.6 billion last March. Some 12,800 citizens received loans, and 85 percent were subsidised.
Saudi Arabia last year announced plans to boost the size of the mortgage market to SR502 billion by 2020 as part of a comprehensive plan to provide housing finance to its citizens, facilitating a balanced and sustainable housing environment through the establishment and development programs.
In other deals, Bidaya Home Finance announced three initiatives to enhance the Saudi market. Its first initiative involved the sale of Bidaya’s mortgage portfolio to SRC, valued at SR500 million over a period of six months. SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview. “Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said.
“We are really looking at probably issuing something between SR2 to 4 billion that we may be issuing in two tranches.”
He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10- to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said. He added that the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the Saudi riyal.
In March, SRC completed a SR750 million sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to SR11 billion of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.