Opposition grows to new expat visa rules in Saudi Arabia

by Ray Clancy on September 2, 2014

Opposition is mounting in Saudi Arabia to a new rule due to come into being next month which would restrict expat working visas in some categories to four years.

The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and an increasing number of businesses have spoken out in opposition to the move, which was announced as part of the Kingdom’s nationalisation employment programme.


The new rule is supposed to come into effect on 25 October, but it’s causing a stir in the business community

The Labour Ministry has announced that from 25 October, businesses will need to employ more Saudi nationals and fewer expats. As a result, those who don’t employ a certain quota of Saudi citizens will find that expat working visas are restricted.

The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that the four-year limit would be difficult to implement in the industrial, construction and service sectors, which depend on trained and experienced workers from abroad.

Under the nationalisation programme, businesses in Saudi Arabia are rated green, yellow or red according to their national/expat quota and are rewarded for being in the higher categories, with benefits such as easier access to expat visas.

JCCI member Ahmad Al Marbaie said the decision would create labour shortages and in the long term, would harm the nationalisation process. ‘There are sectors that cannot move to the green zone because they depend totally on skilled and specialised workers,’ he explained.

He added that restrictions will make it harder to find skilled and trained workers as they would simply opt for jobs in other countries where there are no visa limits.

‘Trained workers are hard to come by and are highly valued in other countries. This decision will affect our productivity, profitability and performance. We need these workers to stay in the kingdom for at least 10 years,’ he pointed out.

According to the JCCI, businesses are being forced to recruit unskilled local labour and employers who have trained up expat workers have had to sack them and replace them with untrained Saudi labour.

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