Oman: Longtime expats call for right to citizenship
Oman requires all employers to end the contracts of foreign workers when they reach the retirement age of 60, with retired parents not able to gain residency as dependants of their working children
Sayyed Hassan, 56, left his native Syria to work as a schoolteacher in Oman when he was just 26 years old. Now, after 30 years of service to the country's education system, he believes he has earned the right to Omani citizenship.
Mr Hassan, whose three grown-up children were all born in Oman, says Muscat now feel likes home.
“Three decades in Oman. That’s a lifetime. I worked only two years in my country but 30 years here. All my students are now working and contributing to the economy, some of them as senior managers and government officials," Mr Hassan, who was born in Damascus, told The National. "But I am still considered as a Syrian teacher. How I wish I could be granted citizenship as a recognition for my long contribution."
Mr Hassan is not the only longtime expat working in Oman who wants to be rewarded for their contributions to Omani society with citizenship.
Mohammed Taufiq, an Egyptian national living in Muscat, has spent his entire career working in Oman. But in two years' time, he faces the prospect of having to leave.
“I came here in 1984, when I was only 24, to work as an oil and gas engineer. I got married here and my wife and I raised four children here. [But] I am now 58 years of age and two years from now I will have to leave the country because I ill have reached the age of retirement," said Mr Taufiq.
"My entire career has been spent here as well as most of my life. It will be a nice reward for my dedication to this country if I could get citizenship so I can stay in Oman for the rest of my life."
Oman requires all employers to end the contracts of foreign workers when they reach the retirement age of 60, with retired parents not able to gain residency as dependants of their working children. Expats wishing to remain in Oman can, however, buy a property, enabling them to obtain a so-called "investor residence" visa.
Both male and female foreign nationals can be granted citizenship but only if they have been married to an Omani national for a minimum of 20 years and living in the country for a minimum of 20 years also.
Some expats deem the law on citizenship to be unfair.
“I have to get married to an Omani and stay married to an Omani for 20 years to get Omani citizenship. I am here working for 27 years so why is my contribution to the development of the country not considered? " said Abduljabber Hameed, 54, a Muscat-based Indian national working as a financial consultant.
"I am more an Omani than an Indian national simply because have I lived here more than in my country. Why can Oman not consider that?"
Mr Hameed, who lives in Oman with his wife and two children, is determined to retire in Muscat before he reaches the age of 60 by buying a property.
“This is the only way my wife and I can stay in the country we love so much. We saved enough to buy an apartment, which we are going to do in the next couple of years,” he said.
But Omani law only grants residency to married couples who own property in the country and their children below the age of 18 — something that has posed a problem for Australian computer engineer Harry Tomlinson and his family.
“The next best thing if an expatriate cannot get citizenship after years of hard work in this country is to buy a property," said the 59-year-old who lives in Muscat. "But we have a 19-year old son and a 17-year old daughter. Our son needed to get a university visa where he studies to stay with us and our daughter next year must leave or get a job to be with us."
"It is quite frustrating because it splits up the family. Citizenship would have solved that problem,” Mr Tomlinson added.
He urged the government to change the law to allow longtime expats to apply for citizenship.
“Allowing citizenship to long-serving expatriates would open the doors for experts such as doctors, scientists, academics and entrepreneurs to improve the economy,” he said.
Updated: January 13, 2018 06:48 PM