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Oman eases restrictions on sponsorship transfer

On June 8, 2020

Migrant workers in Oman can now transfer sponsorship without permission (in the form of a no-objection certification or NOC)  from their sponsor after completing a two-year contract. Previously, non-Omanis were banned from re-entering the country for two years if they left their employer without permission.

The Royal Oman Police has enacted Decision No. 157/2020 that amends article 24 of Decision No. 63/1996 issuing the executive regulations of the Law on the Residence of Foreigners. Article 24, which previously stipulated that a foreigner's residence may be transferred to another only with the approval of the first sponsor, has been amended to stipulate:

"It is permissible for a foreigner to transfer from one employer to another, provided the employer has a licence to recruit workers, on condition that they provide proof of the end of work contract or termination of it. They must also provide evidence of the approval of the competent government authority on allowing the signed contract with the second employer and it must be in accordance with the controls set by the competent authority."

"The transfer of a foreigner’s residency shall result in the transfer of the residence of his family members to the second employer if the conditions necessary for his residency are met."

It is unclear if domestic workers are also included in this policy: According to Article 3 of the Ministry of Manpower’s Decree No. 189/2004 on labour rules and conditions for domestic workers, domestic workers are subjected to the same terms as other non-Omani workers provided that it does not contravene with the provisions of the decree. However, Article 7 of the same decree stipulates that domestic workers cannot work for any other person before the employer relinquishes his or her sponsorship and completes the necessary procedures in this regard. 

Prior to this decision, Oman’s sponsorship transfer policy was the most restrictive in the region. Recent reforms to labour migration systems across the GCC countries have allowed workers to transfer sponsorship after completing contracts with a measurable impact on the labour market and workers. For example, In 2011, after the UAE reformed its policy to allow migrant workers with expired contracts to change employers without their original sponsor’s permission, real earnings following a contract expiration increased by over 10% and the wage gap between migrants and locals in the private sector was reduced. 

Bahrain’s labour mobility policies remain the most flexible in the GCC. Migrants in Bahrain, except for domestic workers, can transfer sponsorship without the consent of their employer after completing one year of employment and Flexi-Permit workers are allowed to sponsor themselves and work for different employers without any mobility restrictions.