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Iraq and the Path to the New Normal
| Noman Khan

Iraq and the Path to the New Normal

Manager Noman Khan discusses the workable solutions introduced in Iraq to assist with the remobilisation of workforces 

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way businesses operate worldwide. The Iraqi government is grappling with the impact of the pandemic and determining the “new normal.” As early as February, strict restrictions were imposed, including immigration and mobility measures. In addition to the challenges presented by unstable oil prices and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the immigration restrictions have affected business operations across all industries. In Iraq, the oil and gas sector in particular, in which most work assignments are rotational, has seen employers struggling to source new workers from overseas and in Iraq. 

The way forward

Air travel restrictions have recently been eased in federal Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) region and companies are actively seeking to bring back foreign talent. Hopes are high, and normal business operations are beginning to resume. However, safety remains a priority. Even though the immigration landscape is fluid, there have been workable solutions recently made available for companies to mobilise their workforces in Iraq. The Ministry of Interior has announced concessions for those holding a business visit visa or employment Letter of Approval “LOA” not utilised and expired after 23 February 2020, to enter Iraq on this LOA up until 23 October 2020.

Despite local COVID-19 challenges, curfews and restrictions on businesses requiring them to operate at 25% employee capacity, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health and the Field Operating Divisions are now working toward coordinating efforts to assist companies by clearing the backlog created during the last four months. Currently, government authorities are providing all immigration services. However, employers must consider the extended processing timelines when considering deployment of foreign resources.  

Iraq: what you should know before travelling

The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority has been permitted to resume international flights under strict guidelines and with preventive measures. Both foreign and Iraqi national passengers coming to Iraq are required to carry out a PCR test for COVID-19 in the country from which they are traveling 48 hours before the flight departure date. Upon arrival, passengers will be required to fill out a pledge form, and for those who test positive, there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a government-sponsored hotel at the passenger’s expense.

Passengers must consider any pre-departure requirements as well. Due to limited flights to Iraq, the travel process can be a challenge given that one must arrange a COVID-19 test and obtain results in the departing country, and then fly to Iraq within 48 hours. Due to the frequent changes related to countries' travel policies at this time, passengers have also faced constraints at the time of boarding. Accordingly, it is recommended to coordinate with airlines to understand the latest travel requirements. Once inside Iraq, travellers who will be visiting oil and gas fields must obtain a security pass. The Ministry of Oil recently implemented a new process whereby the authorisation and issuance of oil field passes have been transferred to the Facilities Protection Department (FPD) from the conventional security offices commonly known as the “SCO.” Working with limited employee capacity, locally imposed curfews and new processes have all contributed towards a lengthier and more complex process to obtain security passes.

The current immigration landscape is uncharted territory for all of us, and it is significantly impacting the business workforce and operations on the ground in Iraq. The easing of travel restrictions, opening of government authorities, and decreasing of curfews are all steps taken by the Iraqi authorities toward normalisation of business activities. Navigating compliantly through the evolving regulations, processes and new immigration requirements will be crucial to business continuity in these unprecedented times.For assistance with the mobilisation of your workforce in Iraq, please contact Noman Khan at [email protected].

This blog was released on 14 September, and due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep current with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our COVID-19 microsite, subscribe to our alerts and follow us on LinkedIn