Oman is a popular work destination for expatriates looking to improve their career prospects or earn some extra money.
In Oman, expatriates account for a little over 38% of the total population. Bangladeshis form the largest expat community followed by Indians and Pakistanis. The expatriate workforce is absorbed into suit-and-tie positions as well as blue collar jobs.
If you plan to make the move to get a job in Oman in the near future, here's a detailed guide on what to expect.
The Sultanate of Oman is steeped in history. The minarets and domes set against the backdrop of the blue sky create an old world charm. It is ruled by a monarch, the Al Said family. Adding to its character are the abundance of souqs - the marketplaces selling local food items, handicrafts, jewelry and other knick knacks.
Speaking of Oman’s economy, it is one of the major exporters of oil and has the largest share in the GDP. The tourism industry comes in second.
The Sultanate has also distinguished itself as a master shipbuilder. This is primarily because of its location. Perched on the southeastern end of the Arabian peninsula, Oman is surrounded by water on three sides. For long, Oman had been tucked away, shut off from the rest of the world. For this reason it is one of the lesser known of the Middle East nations.
Muscat is the capital city of Oman. It’s metropolitan vibe attracts the largest number of expats in the country. Oman is an Islamic state. Expats are allowed to practise their religion but expected to respect the priniciples and customs of Islam.
Arabic is the official language. Nevertheless, given the diversity and the large size of the expat community, English is also widely used for official purposes.
Employment and Salary
Despite the move to train and employ a greater number of locals, the dependency on expatriate workforce is still high.
There is a great demand for white collar jobs in Oman. Opportunities for employment are the highest in the sector handling oil and gas refining. Oil and gas are among the top exports.
The fast depleting oil and gas reserves has compelled the Sultanate to consider alternate sources of revenue. The other major industries, also the chief employers in Oman, are construction and infrastructure development, healthcare, teaching and tourism. Industries such as chemical, steel and cement production provide well-paying employment opportunities to people looking for jobs in Oman too.
Medical professionals, engineers, IT and software professionals, Accounting and Consultancy services and managerial positions are among the best paying jobs in Oman.
A typical work week in Oman is from Sunday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday are the weekend.
Visas and Contracts
Having a work visa is compulsory for an expat to work in Oman. Working on a visitor visa is considered illegal. Expats in the age group of 21 to 60 years can apply for an employment visa.
It is best you have a confirmed job offer in place before you travel to Oman. Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries can enter and work in Oman without a visa. Other expats require an entry and residency visa, passport and photographs to work legally in the country.
Officials conduct surprise checks and expatriates must produce their residency and entry visas whenever asked.
Besides the necessary documentation, expats are expected to undergo a health checkup to rule out sexually transmitted diseases. Israeli nationals, individuals possessing an Israeli passport or entry stamp of the country will be banned from entry into Oman.
Deciding whether it is worth travelling to Oman for a job often depends on the perks offered in your employment contract. In addition to a competitive, tax-free salary, you are provided with benefits such as a health insurance cover, company car, and free accomodation. The perks provided however vary according to the employer or organisation. Employers cover the cost of airfare for a single trip. But there is no fixed law regarding the same and could vary according to the employer.
As per the Oman Labour Law, every employee who has completed one year of service is entitled to a paid leave for 15 days which may be extended to a maximum of 30 days. If the employer does not permit the employee to take leave after a year, he has to grant leave after two years. An employer will have to compensate employees for unused annual leave. An expatriate could also be granted four days leave in case of an emergency.
An expat can apply for a dependent visa, also called a family joining visa, for their spouse and all children below the age of 21 years. It is approved by the Directorate General of Passports and Residence. It is valid for a period of 2 years from the date stamped on the passport.
An Omani national can also apply for a family joining visa if his wife is a foreign national. The visa may be granted subject to the submission of the marriage certificate.
A family joining visa requires a local sponsor. The family visa must be renewed on expiry. The family visa automatically stands cancelled once the expat employee’s visa expires.
Changing Jobs in Oman
Before January 2021, changing jobs in Oman required a No Objection Certificate from the current sponsor. It caused a lot of inconvenience as sponsors refused to give an NOC.
From 2021, expats can change jobs without an NOC. They will just need to submit proof of termination of the previous work contract. The visa can easily be transferred from one employer to the next.
Switching jobs is not always welcome given that your employer sponsors your relocation to Oman. It will require a no objection letter from the current employer.
End of Service of Benefits
As per the recent updates, expatriates are entitled to end-of-service benefits as follows. An expatriate shall receive one months salary for every service year for a maximum of 10 months for those employed in Grades 1 to 6. Those in grades 7 to 14 are entitled to a maximum of 12 months.
An expatriate employee shall not be eligible for the end of service benefits if his service years amount to less than 5 years. The exceptions include end of employment due to death, disability, dismissal or criminal incrimination.
There is an abundance of homes to rent in Oman. You are presented with a multitude of options - shared units, single occupancy modern apartments, furnished flats and budgeted unfurnished units.
A number of variables influence the price of rent such as the size of the unit, type of accomodation, locality and available facilities. Employers generally help expats secure accomodation with some even covering the expenses for it. The cost of an unfurnished, one-bedroom apartment works out to $750 to $1000 per month. That is between 290 to 390 OMR. Furnished units in the same format cost 50% more.
Most rental agreements are one year contracts and must be renewed before expiry.
Expats can be found everywhere, living among Omanis. But there are select neighbourhoods that have higher concentrations of expat population. Muscat, the capital city, is an expat magnet. Following close behind is Salalah. Its larger size and cargo port make it yet another expat hotspot in Oman. There is Ruwi too, a business hub that is a popular destination with expats.
Madinat al Sultan Qaboos and Shati Al Qurmare are other places expats choose to live in. The cost of living is high in these cities and therefore a popular choice with better placed expats.
You can avail the bus or taxi service if you want to travel within Oman. The public transportation system isn’t as well-organised and hence not the preferred choice. Most expats, who have been in Oman for a while, recommend using the shared taxi service. It is both economical and reliable.
You could also book a private taxi. Be prepared to pay extra for it. The rides are not charged according to a fixed rate. It is a prepaid rate decided before every ride. As an expat, you could be overcharged. It can help to find out the estimated cost of a trip before you set out.
An expat can use a driving license issued by the native country for a period of three months. After this, he or she will have to apply for an Omani driving license.
Oman is more liberal in its way of life. Oman attracts a number of expats from the West for its warm climate. The locals are warm and hospitable people, making the shift a lot easier.
Women are expected to dress conservatively in public. The month of Ramadan is extremely holy and must be respected by expats too. You will not be expected to fast, but shouldn’t intentionally eat, drink or smoke in the presence of an Omani in public.
Consumption of alcohol is permitted in restaurants and hotels.
There are several activities you can engage in during your leisure time. You can shop, sample the local fare, drop in at the ancient forts and castles. You can attend the events organised at the Royal Opera House.
Oman has a well-developed healthcare system featuring state-of-the-art infrastructure and trained medical staff. Natives are eligible for free medical treatment. Expatriates however, can avail medical care at private clinics only. Private medical care is expensive.
It is advised that foreigners get a health insurance package to cover the expenses. You should get one if your sponsoring organisation does not include that in your package.
Expatriates should also be aware that a number of generic medicines available over-the-counter in one’s home country could be banned or sold as prescription-only medications in Oman.
In terms of education, expats have two options - public schooling or private international schools. The government-aided Omani schools are cheaper no doubt. But the curriculum has a more religious leaning and hence may not be best suited to someone who does not practise Islam.
Private international schools cater to children of expat families especially with respect to curriculum. The cost of private education is high. Omani employers may or may not cover the education expenses of expat employee dependants.
Safety has been a common concern for many expatriates moving to the Middle East given past instances of unrest.
The Sharia law adopted in Oman stipulates severe punishment for all types of crime. This has resulted in a significant drop in the crime rate; it is as good as non-existent.
Places to Visit
Oman is also home to a number of picturesque destinations that expats must visit during their stay in Oman. An abundance of forts, museums, and mosques lend an old world charm. The Jebel Shams Canyon and Wadi Bani Khalid offer incredible views and breathtaking trekking trails. The Muttrah souq is the place to shop for local items, jewelry, cloth and souvenirs. Located in Eastern Oman, closer to Muscat, is the Dabab sinkhole. The Wadis are great places for stargazing and camping.
Looking for a Job in Oman
An expat desirous of working in Oman should confirm the job offer before arrival. You can seek help from local contacts, if any. The other option is to register with a recruitment agency specialising in hiring international personnel to work in Oman.
You can personally check the career options for various companies in Oman and apply whenever there is a vacancy. Finally, you can take advantage of the several online job portals that curate information on Oman job vacancies.