Oman Opens Wider for Foreign Investment; Allows Non-residents to Start Business 

January 2, 2024by Ajay Denny0

The Sultanate of Oman is gearing towards a Foreign Investor-friendly regulatory regime. With the latest regulatory reforms, foreign investment do not need a residency card to establish a business in Oman. This groundbreaking development is part of Oman’s strategic vision to diversify its economy and attract global investors. 

Thinking about expanding your business to Oman? The time to actualize your entrepreneurial strategy in Oman is never better than now. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Investment Promotion (MoCIIP) has announced a new dawn in the regulatory environment in Oman. Foreign investors can now set up companies without the need for a residency card. Offering the twin benefits of ownership and remote application, the investors are however required to furnish Know Your Customer (KYC) details as a pre-requisite for initiating investments. 

Setting up a business in Oman 

Starting a business in Oman involves 2 steps. The first hurdle is to register a company. This can be across Joint Partnerships, Limited Partnerships, LLCs, Sole Proprietor Companies, Public Joint Stock Companies, Foreign Company branches, etc.  

The second step involves obtaining appropriate licenses and permits based on the nature of the business and its location. Further, for licensed activities, certain criteria must be met before a license is issued and business activities can be started. The Oman Business platform, an e-services platform offering a one-stop solution for all license-related activities in Oman, supports new and potential investors with a user-friendly simulator for guiding users in identifying the most appropriate business type and license requirements among the available options.  

The Oman Business Platform is equipped with Artificial Intelligence applications in the KYC service by adopting the facial recognition feature to verify users. Foreign visitors looking to avail of the services of the interactive platform should log in using the Non-Residents option and register themselves. Upon successful registration, the new user is issued a special secret number that act as the password for accessing the platform and initiating the services offered.  

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What This Means for Oman’s Economy 

Oman’s Vision 2040, a long-term plan for economic diversification and sustainable development, is the driving force behind these reforms. By adopting a more open stance towards foreign investment, Oman is inviting capital, innovation, expertise, and global best practices. 

By attracting foreign investments, Oman is diversifying its economy beyond its traditional oil-based model, opening sectors like tourism, logistics, and technology. This regulatory shift is expected to boost Oman’s economy by: 

– Increasing foreign direct investment (FDI). 

– Stimulating job creation and skill transfer. 

– Enhancing the competitiveness of the Omani market on a global scale. 

Enhanced Competitiveness: Like its GCC neighbours, Oman is working towards economic diversification away from oil dependence. This regulatory change is a shot in the arm in making Oman more competitive within the GCC region. While other GCC countries have also been making efforts to attract foreign investment, Oman’s simplified process could give it an edge, especially for investors looking for ease of entry and operation. While the UAE and Saudi Arabia have traditionally been seen as the dominant economic powers in the region, Oman’s new policy could help balance this dynamic, offering an alternative for investors. 

Attracting Diverse Investments: This policy is likely to attract a broader spectrum of investors, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs who might have found the previous regulations restrictive. An influx of foreign investment can significantly boost Oman’s economy, leading to job creation, skill development, and technological advancement. This is particularly important in the country’s move away from oil dependency. 

Cultural Exchange and Knowledge Transfer: With more foreign businesses, there will be an increase in cultural exchange and knowledge transfer, which can lead to innovative business practices and new technologies being introduced in Oman. 

What this means for Foreign Investment

Oman’s decision to relax its investment regulations marks a new chapter in its economic narrative. Traditionally, foreign entrepreneurs and investors faced certain restrictions, including the necessity of a residency card to start a business. The removal of this requirement signifies Oman’s commitment to fostering a more welcoming and accessible environment for international capital. 

Risk Mitigation: For investors wary of geopolitical risks or overexposure in other GCC markets, Oman might offer a stable alternative or a supplementary location for diversification of their Middle East investments. 

Ease of Business Setup: The removal of the residency card requirement simplifies the process for foreign investors to enter the Omani market. This change reduces bureaucratic hurdles and makes it easier and faster to set up a business, making Oman more attractive to international entrepreneurs and companies. The ability to start a business without being a resident offers them more flexibility. They can manage their investments remotely or travel to Oman as required. 

Broader Market Access: Foreign investors now have an easier pathway to tap into Oman’s diverse economy and its strategic location at the crossroads of East and West trade routes. Oman is a gateway to the broader Middle Eastern, East African, and South Asian markets, given its geographic and cultural ties. This access opens up opportunities in various sectors such as tourism, logistics, renewable energy, and technology, which are pivotal in Oman’s economic diversification plans. 

Potential Challenges and Considerations 

While the opportunity is significant, foreign investors still need to navigate local business customs, legal frameworks, and market dynamics. Understanding these aspects is crucial for successful business operations in Oman. 

While this development is a monumental step, it’s crucial for potential investors to understand the local market dynamics, legal frameworks, and cultural nuances of doing business in Oman. Partnering with local experts, thorough market research, and due diligence through financial and legal consultants will remain key to successful ventures in this evolving landscape. 

About ATB Legal

ATB Legal is a full-service legal consultancy in the UAE providing services in dispute resolution (DIFC Courts, ADGM Courts, mainland litigation management and Arbitrations), corporate and commercial matters, IP, business set up and UAE taxation. We also have a personal law department providing advice on marriage, divorce and wills & estate planning for expats. Please feel free to reach out to us at office@atblegal.com for a non-obligatory initial consultation.

by Ajay Denny

Ajay is a young ACCA Affiliate who is eager to take on challenging opportunities, pushing the status quo, thus helping make a positive impact on the Accounting Profession and the global community at large.

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