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Times of Oman - 06.04.2015

Muscat: Expatriate families call for change in rules after suffering heartache because once their children turn 21, they cannot stay with their parents as they are not eligible for a family visa.

While for parents it is heartbreaking, for authorities it is about regularising the labour market.

The pain for such expatriate families is immense. 

These parents, who are forced to send their children back due to resident status rules, say that even though the situation is unavoidable, it is very depressing.

"It is a huge change, like the end of a journey," said an expatriate parent, who had to send his elder daughter back home when she turned 21.

Since they found it difficult to cope with the elder daughter's return, they found a solution to keep the younger daughter back here.

"When she turned 21, we got admitted to her in a college and obtained a student visa to keep her with us," added the parent.

"However, it has to be renewed every year. Only to keep her with us, we are paying fees to the college and for visa renewal annually, which is upsetting my budget," said the parent who runs a small tailoring shop and is a resident of Oman for the last 30 years.

In Oman, the family joining visa is only granted to children below 21.

To the relatives of Omani nationals and relatives of a foreigner who are not included in the categories eligible for family joining visa, it is granted by the authorities concerned at their discretion, and at the request of a local sponsor and on his responsibility.

However, the rules are more lenient in most other GCC countries. 

Even though sons of expatriate parents have to leave the country once they turn 18, daughters can stay on until they are married.

"When a child turns 21, whether male or female, they are independent. So, they have to go back to their home country and return either on a student visa or a job visa," said an official of the Omani Ministry of Manpower. 

"This rule was implemented to control the number of expatriates in the Sultanate," added the official.

Recently, many expatriates had been discussing the issue actively on social networking sites.

In a discussion raised by a Facebook user through a post in What's Happening Muscat, Oman, Facebook page, many were sharing their experiences of sending back their daughters when they turned 21.

"In Oman it is for the daughters as well... both my sisters were born here, the elder one could not renew her visa after turning 22," read a post.

No home to return
Meanwhile, Tonia Gray, general manager at Competence HR, said this is extremely difficult for many, particularly those who have no real home to return to as they have been in Oman for many years and sometimes have even been born here.

"Further, not all are ready at the age of 21 to live independently in a different country away from their parents. This could also cause a financial burden on the family who have to provide a roof over the head of their young adult elsewhere," said Gray.

"I also understand that for many the concerns are far greater when it is a daughter that has to leave home. It is normal for parents to experience depression and anxiety over their son or daughter leaving the family home — and when the last one leaves home the 'empty nest' syndrome really kicks in," said Tonia while adding that these regulations are ones that one has to accept as expatriates living and working in Oman.

Tonia also said that she is uncertain, but believes that the reason that the Oman government has implemented this regulation is to ensure that it gives the best opportunity for nationals to be employed within the workforce.

"With young expatriate adults remaining in Oman it is possible that they will take away the positions that would otherwise be offered to a national. If this is the case, then the regulation is therefore understandable — although that does not mean it is going to be right for the expatriate family – both for the parents and the young adult," she explained.
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