Oman’s Ministry of Labour announced that expat workers and their employers will be exempt from all fees and fines related to work permits if workers leave the Sultanate permanently between 15 November and 31 December.
A ministry official said that exemption procedures will be announced soon and that an online portal will be launched where expats can register with the help of their sponsor or by visiting the Sanad offices.
Expats who do not hold valid travel documents, such as passports, must apply for an outpass from their embassies to exit the country. It remains unclear if any assistance will be provided for stranded workers with no embassy in Oman.
It’s also not clear if the scheme includes those with absconding (“runaway”) cases lodged against them. According to the Labour Ministry, the exemption will only include fines and penalties linked to the labour ministry and not other government agencies.
It is worth noting that penalties and fines resulting from work permits are often the result of sponsor’ negligence, as only they have the ability to issue, renew and terminate visas. The Labour Ministry also did not mention if it has put in place any mechanism to ensure unpaid workers leaving Oman receive their dues. Instead, the Ministry said, “...employers who have any claims against their employees must approach the required authorities within a week of their staff leaving the country, with evidence of these claims uploaded onto the ministry’s website.”
A combination of factors including Omanisation policies, the pandemic, and economic downturn has resulted in an exodus of workers from the Sultanate. According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information, over 263,000 expats (15.3% of expat population) have left Oman in the first nine months of the year.