GCC governments are taking significant steps towards supporting entrepreneurs and white-collar workers in the region through new laws and initiatives that are in the pipeline for 2017.
Here’s a brief look at what different GCC nations are doing in this regard:
The government is gearing up efforts to ensure UAE nationals will make up five per cent of private workforce in the country by 2020.
The planned Saudi Green Card scheme has reportedly reached its final stages. The green card status will entitle residents to various benefits, which have so far been restricted to Saudi citizens, in return for an annual fee of SR14,200.
Once implemented, the new system will ensure expatriates, who meet the conditions, get permanent residence and enable them to own real estate. A holder of the green card will also be allowed to run his own business, receive a monthly pension, have access to government-funded health and educational services, in addition to the right to change jobs.
The green card status will enable the beneficiary to obtain visas for immediate family members, two visas for domestic workers and win extra points to get Saudi nationality, in addition to other privileges.
Fahad bin Juma, vice-chairman of the Shoura Council Financial Committee, said eligibility for the Saudi green card will be determined by a number of entities topped by the Ministry of Commerce and Investment.
He said that, in order to meet the eligibility criteria, applicants must possess scientific skills or professional qualities that are not abundantly available in the Kingdom, or they should be company owners who can invest in the country. He said the availability of the card would be limited due to such criteria and also because foreigners are able to obtain a Saudi investment license.
Work visa rules get a revision thanks to a new Qatari law. The procedures for recruiting workers from abroad have changed under Law No 21 of 2015 regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates, a senior official of the Ministry of Interior has said.
Employers need to get approval for work visas from the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA), before applying at the Ministry of Interior.
The employers can get visa approval from the MADLSA without names and, when they sign the job contract with the worker, they need to present a copy of the passport, the job contract and the MADLSA approval to get the entry visa for the worker.
However, there is no change in the rules for obtaining family visas and residency permits for spouses and children. The conditions for private sector employees seeking a family visa include a minimum monthly salary of QAR7,000 to QAR10,000.
Oman is reportedly considering plans to allow expatriate workers to be hired on short-term job contracts. Media reports say that a proposal was submitted by the country’s national diversification programme Tanfeedh with the argument that it would benefit the economy and provide more jobs for Omanis.
Short-term contracts would allow greater flexibility in the workforce in some specialised professions and are being appraised by government lawyers.
A Ministry of Manpower official was quoted as saying that workers could be offered three-month, six-month or nine-month contracts to complete a project and they would also be allowed to move to different branches of the same sponsor’s business.
According to the Tanfeedh handbook, based on performance indicators, this initiative will result in an increase in the number of part-time workers (not students) registered in the Sultanate from 102 to at least 13,000 by 2020, as well as an increase in the number of partially employed students to 13,000 by 2020.
Several MPs hailed the Parliament’s approval of the proposed amendment of Companies Law No. 1/2016, affirming the revised law will ease procedures for establishing companies and attract investments from young entrepreneurs.
The amended law no longer requires investors to deposit capital before establishing a company, but adding email or a mailbox to the company’s address is necessary. The changed law also cancelled the nominal value of shares, which will be determined by the partners.
MP Ahmed Al-Fadel said the establishment of companies used to take 61 days and then it was reduced to four days while the latest amendment further shortened it to one day which is a remarkable achievement.
A new “flexible” work permit will be introduced in Bahrain to allow 10,000 illegal expats to legitimately work for multiple employers for two years. The move is limited to workers who have overstayed their visa in the country due to being exploited or abused by their employers, the Labour and Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) said.
It said the permit, which will cost $80 (BD30) a month in addition to a one-time fee of $530 (BD200), will not cover employees who fled from their employees or are involved in serious offences.
The plan is scheduled to go into effect in the second quarter of 2017 and the transitional period will be used to explain details to the expatriate community in different languages. The scheme is optional and only those interested can apply through the LMRA.