Oman’s Royal Police has recently announced that it will stop converting tourist and visit visas to work visas, in addition to pausing all new visas, of any type, to Bangladesh citizens.
According to the announcement, the new decision will take effect from 31 October 2023 and continue until further notice. Migrants who wish to convert their visit visas to work permits will now have to exit Oman and return on a work visa.
Throughout the GCC, migrants have often utilised visit visas as a means to circumvent travel restrictions imposed by their home countries. For others, this process has also been used to explore employment prospects in the destination country before committing to a 2- or 3-year work visa.
On the other hand, the visit visa loophole is notoriously exploited by unscrupulous recruiters. This issue is particularly pronounced in Oman, where numerous migrants have been trafficked for non-existent jobs and left stranded without any legal protections.
According to the TIP Report 2023, Oman has previously stopped visa conversions for nationals of certain African and Asian countries in response to cases of forced labour and exploitation.
Suspension of Visa Issuance for Nationals of Bangladesh
In addition, the Royal Police of Oman has also announced that it will stop issuing all types of new visas for Bangladeshi citizens until further notice.
While Omani authorities did not officially disclose the reason for the ban, the Bangladesh Embassy in Muscat in its press release indicated that the decision follows a review conducted by relevant Omani authorities to regulate the foreign labour market, adding that the decision “is no way and under no circumstances is political in nature.”
While it remains uncertain, the ban was likely implemented to reduce the number of Bangladeshi migrants, who currently constitute the majority of the migrant population in Oman.
Recent statistics from Oman's National Centre for Statistics and Information reveal that as of August 2023, there were 714,760 Bangladeshi migrant workers in the Sultanate. This constitutes approximately 39.5% of the total migrant workers, which stood at 1,807,963 during the same period.
With migrants comprising the majority of the working population in the region, setting quotas to limit the number of migrants from certain nationalities is not unheard of in the Gulf. In 2020, Kuwait’s National Assembly committee approved a draft law proposing a cap for Indian migrants, specifying that it should not exceed 15% of the national population. It is likely that Oman is unofficially following the same practice.