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Fragomen Worldwide: January Newsflash

Date Posted: Tue, 05 Jan, 2021

Fragomen Worldwide: January Newsflash

Immigration developments in the MENA Region

Please visit our dedicated microsite for more details on worldwide immigration and travel restrictions.

Saudi Arabia
According to the announcement by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD), select employers in Saudi Arabia can request for a labour-related penalty waiver provided that they commit to the employment of Saudi nationals under specific conditions. This new initiative is called ‘The Violations Settlement Service’ and it is available through the MHRSD’s electronic portal to employers that comply with prescribed Saudization ratios.

Effective June 11, 2021, companies with five or more workers operating in the affected sector will have to ensure that 30% of their workforce employed in specific positions identified by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD), are Saudi nationals. A total of 20 positions have been targeted for Saudization, including general accountant, director of the internal audit department and financial clerk. Additionally, the MHRSD set up the following minimum monthly wages that must be paid to each Saudi worker, depending on their professional level: SAR 6,000 for employees who hold a bachelor’s degree or above and SAR 4,500 for employees who hold a high-school diploma or similar. Affected employers must correct their Saudization rates and comply with the new requirements by the above-mentioned deadline. Non-compliant employers will be subject to penalties, including the suspension of select immigration and employment services such as the issuance of new work permits and employment transfer.

Nationals of Israel are now eligible to apply for a pre-approved visitor visa through the electronic portal before arrival to Bahrain; this includes a single-entry visa with a maximum allowable duration of stay of two weeks and multiple-entry visas with a maximum allowable duration of stay of 30 and 90 days respectively. Previously, Israeli nationals were inadmissible to Bahrain. A total of 69 nationalities can currently benefit from the visa-on-arrival program, and citizens of 122 countries can obtain a pre-approved e-visa for Bahrain. The governments of Bahrain and Israel reached an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries in September 2020 as well as signed bilateral treaties to allow tourism, investment, direct passenger flights between the two countries as well as the opening of embassies.

The Ministry of Labour (MOL) has urged employers in Federal Iraq to ensure their compliance with work authorization and social security registration requirements for their entire workforce. Employers must ensure that they complete the immigration process for their foreign workers by obtaining a work permit from the MOL after the multi-entry and exit visa has been approved by the immigration authorities. Additionally, employers must register their entire local and foreign workforce with the Social Security Office or, alternatively, apply for a social security contribution payment exemption for qualified foreign national workers. Employers that are non-compliant with the prescribed requirements will face difficulties in obtaining approvals for any visa applications, will be unable to procure tax clearance certificates and may not receive payment from government entities they are doing business with.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has urged employers in Oman to adjust the status of their foreign national workforce to a status outside of the list of restricted positions, among other guidance, by no later than January 6, 2021 in order to avoid potential fines. The MOM guidance states that employers should amend the designations of foreign workers whose current occupation has been subject to Omanization to those outside of the list of restricted positions. Employers should also ensure that the salaries of foreign workers are disbursed as stated in the relevant employment contract. Additionally, since the recruitment of workers from overseas remains suspended due to the pandemic, employers are further encouraged to utilize the existing mechanism of employment sponsorship within Oman. It is not clear what consequences noncompliant employers will face or whether any enforcement actions will be carried out after the grace period expires. The government is issuing this guidance as a reminder to encourage employers to comply with Omanization rules.

The government authorities in Oman have resumed the issuance of visas and other immigration permits for applicants outside Oman; this includes visit visas for business, tourism and for dependents, as well as visas for employment. The processes were suspended in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, nationals of 103 countries will soon be exempt from an entry visa requirement for tourism, according to the Royal Oman Police announcement. Eligible foreign nationals will be authorized for a visa-free entry for up to 10 days, subject to having a confirmed hotel reservation, health insurance and a return or onward ticket for those arriving by air. Citizens of most European countries, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Russia, Turkey and the U.S. are included on the list. It is not clear when the new policy will come into effect.

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