Managing oil work permits strategically

Hilda Kamugisha, manager - tax and legal services at PwC. PHOTOs/Joseph Kiggundu

What you need to know:

Employers in the oil and gas sector who would like to employ expatriates are required to go through an evaluation process by Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) before employing foreign nationals.

Following the the Final Investment Decision on February 1, 2022, stakeholders in the oil and gas industry are preparing to participate in various project activities.

As some of the skills needed for the sector may not be available in Uganda, hiring non-Ugandans will be necessary. Hiring the right people for the job and to quickly move resources across borders to meet contractual obligations is top on every investor’s agenda. More important is ensuring that employers comply with all the labour laws for employing foreign workers, including obtaining work permits for them to legally work in Uganda. In doing so, it is important to comply with the requirements of Uganda’s immigration laws to avoid any project delays.

To ensure that Ugandan individuals and businesses get the most value out of Uganda’s oil industry, the government introduced specific immigration requirements in the National Content laws. Some of the key aspects of the requirements are explained below as well as best practices for a good immigration compliance.

Recommendation

Employers in the oil and gas sector who would like to employ expatriates are required to go through an evaluation process by Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) before employing foreign nationals. This evaluation is conducted for each individual application although the overall business resourcing requirements may be considered.   PAU carries out the evaluation at no cost. 

The employer must demonstrate to PAU that they were unable to find a Ugandan to fill that position and that the expatriate possesses expertise and skills that cannot be provided by Ugandans. They must also present a plan for training Ugandans, and for the transfer of knowledge and technology to Uganda. This is aimed at ensuring that Ugandans not only participate in the various project activities but also sustainably take on the roles performed by expatriates.

In determining whether or not to grant the recommendation, PAU will review the information provided, including the job titles, academic transcripts and curriculum vitae and any other information PAU may request for.

Once the employer receives the recommendation from PAU, they will be required to follow the usual process for applying for a work permit from the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC). The request for a recommendation may be denied by PAU in certain cases. The reasons for the denial could range from failure to demonstrate the special expertise and skills of the expatriate especially where the position does not appear to be technical and could have been performed by a Ugandan.

Getting a recommendation from PAU does not automatically qualify the expatriate for a work permit, but usually this advance evaluation by PAU provides a good basis for a favourable outcome from DCIC.

Timing

As employees are a critical asset for the execution of the contractual obligations and regulatory requirements, the work permit process should be managed as a key strategic function. For example, once the contractual negotiations have been concluded, the work permit should be initiated early before the date of commencement of work. Mobilising the required documentation in advance also saves on preparation time.

By Hilda Kamugisha

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