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Bahrain - Employment

In order for a foreign national to obtain a work permit for Bahrain it is necessary to have been offered an employment contract. It is the responsibility of the sponsoring company to make all the necessary arrangements and applications for the work and residency permits. All permits will be issued on a temporary basis and usually for no more than a few years. It is unlikely that a foreigner will be granted permanent residency in the country.

When applying for a work permit some supporting documentation is required. Passports must have a minimum of six months left to run, a birth certificate and a marriage certificate if applicable, should all be included with the application form. A medical certificate is also required to confirm that the applicant is in general good health and free from any sexually transmitted diseases.

Once in Bahrain foreign workers have to leave passports with the employer as all companies are subject to regular checks as part of the controls on illegal workers. The work permit doubles as an ID card and this should be carried at all times.

Salaries are often very similar to those paid for similar positions in the west, although the lack of income tax means that the worker often has more disposable income. However the cost of living in Bahrain is extremely high - most goods are imported and overseas products can cost twice as much as they would anywhere else.

Foreign workers are also entitled to an ‘end of contract’ bonus which must be paid by law. Employment contracts often include benefits such as transportation, healthcare and for the lucky few, accommodation. Most workers will work a 40 or 48 hour week and many companies work split hours, i.e. 08:00 - 12:30 and 16:00 - 19:00 (during Ramadan these hours change). As Friday is the Holy Day this is the start of the weekend. Sunday is the start of the work and school week.

Most expatriate workers are men although there are an increasing number of foreign women being recruited to various professions, notably teaching and the medical profession, although some employers are still biased against employing female workers. Female spouses of male workers often have a restriction on their visas to state that they are not able to work.

It is not possible or practical for a foreign national to arrive in the country and begin job hunting. Most companies recruiting foreign workers will do so through their different offices across the world as well as using recruitment agencies and websites. It is not always essential to be able to speak Arabic as most international companies will use English on a daily basis for business.

The industries that most often recruit foreign workers include the oil and gas industries, the medical profession and teaching. The population of the country is relatively small which explains the need for skilled foreign workers. It is unlikely that a worker who does not have suitable work experience for the position for which they are applying will be considered. Companies who recruit foreign workers go to considerable expense to do so and want to be sure that they are hiring the best.

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