Harry Hsing is an associate in our
Abu Dhabi office.
The government of Bahrain recently announced changes to the
country's rules relating to work visas for expatriate workers.
Specifically, foreign workers in Bahrain are now able to change
jobs without the consent of their employers. The previous system,
which still exists in many other countries in the Middle East,
requires that a foreign worker hold a work visa from his employer.
The current prevailing rule in the Middle East requires that if a
foreign worker wishes to change jobs, he must get his
employer's permission through a no-objection certificate or
This change in legislation comes after three years of
deliberation and with input from the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce
and Industry. The change was implemented in August 2009.
This new rule will help to bring an end to the current phenomena
of Bahraini citizens sponsoring multiple foreign workers and
charging a "visa fee" to work for another employer.
Another effect of this new rule will be to slow the number of
foreign workers entering Bahrain. Currently there are over 500,000
foreign workers in Bahrain, making up approximately 50 percent of
the country's population.
The enactment of this new rule includes a mandatory government
review of each foreign worker's request to change jobs to
ensure that the change in employment is being administered within
the framework of the law. Any legal disputes that arise between a
foreign worker and his employer will be resolved in the Bahrain
court system. One carve-out of this legislation is that this new
rule does not apply to domestic workers in Bahrain.
The Bahrain government has also announced that they are
considering imposing a cap on immigration to further slow the
immigration of foreigners into the country.
This new legislation is the first of its kind in the Middle East
and will likely result in more mobility in the work force as it
will provide foreign workers in Bahrain with increased leverage to
improve wages, working conditions, etc. Other Middle East countries
are considering a similar change in their laws, but there is
significant opposition in many countries.
Holland & Knight attorneys can provide guidance regarding
employment and labor law in Bahrain and other countries in the
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