United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Some major developments in the UAE include:
- Various new immigration and employment reforms that were proposed last year would now come into force in 2019. These include the representation of an updated version of the DIFC Employment Law. Effective from 3 February 2019, the new enhanced visa classifications and provisions for the investors, any exceptionally bright students and special talents has come into force and marks a welcome move to the earlier static immigration regime.
- The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has announced a new occupational classification scheme which is applicable to businesses registered in the UAE mainland jurisdiction; this reduces the list of job titles that the employers can opt for while recruiting employees.
- Effective from 20 January 2019, any international physicians, dentists and alternative medicine practitioners (termed as the “Healthcare Professionals” collectively) are allowed to work for a maximum of three clinics in the Dubai Healthcare City free zone operating under a special license and visa. As per these new amendments, the Healthcare Professionals are allowed to apply for the licence overseas depending on when they procure a suitable placement in a medical facility in the DHCC; then the DHCC would act as the “sponsor” for these Healthcare Professionals’ visa. The Healthcare Professionals would also be allowed to work for almost two years and sponsor any dependants living with them in the UAE as per this new visa arrangement.
- The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners’ Affairs (the “GDRFA”) in Abu Dhabi now requires the foreign nationals in Abu Dhabi to first get their Emirates ID card made before they get their employment residence permit (the “ERP”) attached in their passport. The applicants who are renewing their ERP in Abu Dhabi will be still able to get their ERP stamp done before they get their Emirates ID card.
Some major developments in Oman include:
- The Ministry of Manpower (the “MoM”) has published a new decree that prohibits the employment of non-Omani residents into particular and designated roles in private higher education and training institutions. The prohibition is currently restricted to the director of admissions and registration department, director of quality assurance, director of student affairs, and also director of the career guidance department. The employment permits that are issued to non-Omani residents for the above-mentioned categories of employees would be applicable until expiry. Post that, no renewal permit would be granted.
- Enhanced Omanisation initiatives are probable to continue throughout this year. The six-month ban that applied to the 87 sector-specific professions (including, but not limited to, administration and human resources, accounting and finance, media, IT and engineering) and enforced in January 2018, which was extended in July 2018, is likely to be extended by another six months.
- In February, the National Centre for Employment has opened only to Omani residents and serves them as a one-stop hub for job-seekers, while also unifying employment efforts, thus acting as a means of regulating the demand and supply of employment opportunities.
- Effective from January this year, the Royal Oman Police have also relaxed some of the residency rules, especially for the children and siblings of global investors in the nation. The goal of this initiative is to enhance the inflow of foreign investments and offer social stability to the investors. According to a general immigration rule in Oman, children and siblings of expats who are aged 21 years or more and 18 years or more have to leave the country unless they obtain an employment visa to carry on residing in Oman beyond the fixed age limit; however, there is an exception in special cases under some humanitarian grounds in case the Director-General might waive this age requirement. But, under the new initiative, expat children or siblings of global investors coming into Oman would be exempted from this particular age requirement, that is, a global investor will now be able to get his children or siblings along, irrespective of their age, bringing them under his sponsorship and responsibility. This new relaxed residency program would be applicable to global investors only if they go on investing or having an investment in Oman.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (“KSA”)
Some major developments in the KSA include:
- In the year 2017, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (“MLSD”) had cut down the validity of the Block Visas from two to one year. There was an exemption for domestic workers and any foreign staff at government agencies. The MLSD has again launched an initiative in January 2019 for extending the new Block Visa’s validity from one to two years and without any extra government fee. As per this new initiative by the MLSD, businesses in KSA will be allowed to cancel their current Block Visas permitting them to hire global workforce and issue new extended visas applicable for two years depending if the visa requirements are being met. This extension of Block Visa’s validity in the KSA would facilitate all the private sector businesses in terms of time and effort, cost and other administrative work.
- The MLSD has also implemented a new and instant calculation for Saudi and global employees as part of its existing Nitaqat System, which is effective from 2 February 2019.
Amendments to the immigration and the employment laws in the GCC countries are expected to continue in short and long-term. We would be monitoring these changes and will keep you updated with any developments.