Why Has Oman Suspended Giving Visa to Bangladeshis? Oman’s recent decision to suspend issuing all categories of visas to Bangladeshi citizens has come as a shock to the Bangladeshi expatriate community. With over 800,000 Bangladeshis living and working in Oman, it is by far the most popular destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers in the Middle East. This unexpected move by the Omani authorities has left many questions unanswered.
Bangladesh and Oman have historically enjoyed warm bilateral relations. Oman has been the top destination for Bangladeshi migrants since 2008. As per Bangladesh Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) statistics, over 1.7 million Bangladeshis have migrated to Oman for work in the last 10 years. In 2021 alone, nearly 180,000 Bangladeshis went to Oman in search of livelihoods.
The Omani job market relies heavily on Bangladeshi migrants, especially in the construction, hospitality, retail, and service sectors. Bangladeshis comprise the largest expat community in Oman, accounting for over 15% of the total expatriate population. Oman’s rapid economic growth in the 1970s, coupled with higher wages, job prospects, and a more attractive lifestyle compared to other Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia or UAE, have made it an aspiring destination for Bangladeshi youths looking to improve their economic fortunes.
The exact reasons behind Oman‘s decision are unclear, leading to much speculation. Here are some of the factors that likely influenced the visa suspension:
Oman has been facing an economic crisis with rising unemployment among its citizens. With declining oil revenues in recent years, the country is pushing its Omanization drive to create more jobs for locals. This has reduced new work visa approvals and contract renewals for foreigners. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated Oman’s economic woes.
The Bangladeshi community, being the largest foreign workforce, seems to have been disproportionately impacted by the recent job squeeze. Hence, the visa suspension could be an attempt to curb fresh migrant inflows until the job situation improves for Omanis.
Influx of Irregular Migrants
Over the past few years, there has been a notable increase in the number of Bangladeshis entering Oman on tourist or visit visas and then overstaying illegally to work. This violates Oman’s visa rules.
There are reports that several Bangladeshis pay contractors and agents to facilitate their irregular entry into Oman, adding to the existing migrant population. The visa suspension aims to clamp down on this visa malpractice.
High Unemployment among Bangladeshi Migrants
According to some estimates, around 150,000 Bangladeshi workers in Oman have lost their jobs and are currently unemployed. Their visas have expired, but they continue living in camps and accommodation provided by their former employers.
This surplus workforce has sparked tensions with the local Omani population. The visa ban intends to contain the swelling unemployed numbers and pacify anti-foreigner sentiments among citizens.
In October 2022, diplomatic ties between Bangladesh and Oman hit a roadblock when the Bangladeshi government requested Oman to repatriate 54 Bangladeshi human trafficking victims stranded in Oman.
Oman’s perceived reluctance to cooperate on this issue led to strained relations between the two countries. The visa suspension may be Oman’s way of signaling its displeasure with Bangladesh on this diplomatic stand-off.
Impact on Bangladeshi Migrants
The visa suspension is likely to have profound implications for Bangladeshi migrant workers:
- Job Aspirants: Over 200,000 Bangladeshis had registered for the Oman lottery system this year hoping to get work permits. The visa ban dashes their overseas employment dreams, at least for the near future.
- Stranded Migrants: Around 3000 Bangladeshis awaiting family visit visas are now stuck in limbo. The ban also affects family members of migrants who were due to join them in Oman.
- Unemployed Migrants: Those already in Oman and have lost jobs will find it much more difficult to find new employers willing to sponsor their visas. Absconding from employers will also carry higher risks.
- Recruiting Agencies: Oman has been a lucrative labor market for Bangladeshi recruiting agencies. The visa suspension will significantly impact their business and revenue streams.
- Remittances: Remittance inflows to Bangladesh will take a hit. Oman has been the second biggest source of remittances after Saudi Arabia. In 2021, Bangladesh received $1.3 billion in remittances from Oman.
Bangladeshi government officials have expressed hopes that the matter will be resolved diplomatically through bilateral talks. Nonetheless, the visa suspension reflects Oman’s resolve to prioritize employment opportunities for its own citizens.
With no official communication from Oman on the timeframe or modalities of lifting the suspension, the uncertainty prevails. However, Oman’s high dependency on Bangladeshi workforce makes it unlikely to be an indefinite ban.
Oman may selectively lift the ban for certain high-skilled professions where qualified Omanis are unavailable. But until the economic and diplomatic issues are resolved, Bangladeshis eager to work in Oman will have to put their plans on hold.
FAQ of Oman Suspended Giving Visa to Bangladeshis
Why did Oman impose a visa ban on Bangladeshis?
Oman suspended visas for Bangladeshis to reduce foreign workforce and create more employment opportunities for local Omanis amid rising unemployment. Slowing economy due to lower oil revenues has also contributed to this decision.
How long will the visa ban last?
There is no official confirmation from Oman yet on the exact duration of the visa suspension. Most experts believe the ban is unlikely to be permanent given Bangladeshis fill essential labor gaps.
Are other nationalities also banned?
As of now, Oman has only imposed a blanket ban on visas for aspiring Bangladeshi migrants. Work visas for other nationalities have not been suspended.
Can Bangladeshis with valid visas still travel to Oman?
The ban reportedly applies only to new visas. Bangladeshis with valid Omani visas, those already working in Oman, or awaiting visa renewals can still travel to Oman.
How many Bangladeshis will be impacted by the visa suspension?
Roughly 200,000 Bangladeshis awaiting visas this year will be immediately impacted. Additionally, the job prospects for over 800,000 Bangladeshis already in Oman will be affected.
What steps is Bangladesh taking to resolve the issue?
Bangladesh is engaging in diplomatic talks with Oman to convey concerns and understand their perspective. Resolving the ongoing diplomatic row over human trafficking victims is also a priority.
Will the ban affect Bangladesh’s economy and remittance inflows?
Oman is Bangladesh’s second largest remittance source. If the visa suspension prolongs, it may significantly reduce remittance earnings and affect Bangladesh’s economy and balance of payments.