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Bahrain Updates Visit and Dependent Visas to Work Permit Conversion Rules

On February 27, 2024

Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior recently amended regulations concerning visit and dependent visa conversions. As per the new regulations, only sponsored visit visas can be converted to work permits, and they must retain the same sponsor who initially issued the visit visas. 

Additionally, the fees for converting visit visas to work permits, visit visas to dependent visas, and dependent visas to work permits have been increased from BD 60 (159 US$) to BD 250 (663 US$).

Visit visas are tourist visas which the government issues to visitors. They may be sponsored either by the applicant or by a sponsor in Bahrain, usually a travel agency, that is responsible for processing the application with the Nationality, Passports, and Residence Affairs (NPRA). 

While most migrant workers will have secured employment and work permits before their arrival, some individuals use visit visas to search for jobs upon reaching Bahrain. This method is commonly chosen by prospective workers who are seeking employment in Bahrain without relying on recruitment agencies in their home countries, or to bypass government recruitment bans. Employers may also ops for this route because it is cheaper for them and ensures the worker’s presence in Bahrain before investing in issuing work permits and contracts.

However, visit visas have also been misused, with migrants being deceived into believing that their visa serves as a work permit. As a result, they often arrive in Bahrain with no job, despite paying recruitment fees, and also face heavy fines once their visit visas expire. Many migrants have become stranded through this experience, with scam cases on the rise in recent years. 

According to the head of the parliamentary investigation committee into the labour market, Mamdouh Al-Saleh, in the first six months of 2023, the committee monitored the conversion of 8,592 visit visas

The NPRA stated that the new measures aim to increase job-hunting opportunities for unemployed Bahraini citizens and to “tackle the exploitation of visit visas by some.” The NPRA noted that the new regulations will be implemented immediately. 

The NPRA did not officially announce any exemptions for migrants with visit visas already in Bahrain, meaning many of them must return as they lack sponsored visas. Furthermore, some Bahrain residents have raised questions online regarding the decision to raise fees for converting visit visas to dependent visas, saying that the decision is discriminatory and doesn’t concern the labour market.