Saturday, September 29, 2007

Visa profession

The first thing which a potential expatriate planning to work in Saudi Arabia should do upon receipt of his work visa is to get the job title verified from someone who knows Arabic. You may be recruited as a doctor, engineer or a nurse but have probably been given a painter visa. No kidding, this has happened to many and people who have simply come on such visas have faced the herculean and near-impossible task of changing their job titles after landing in the kingdom. So what's all this fuss about job title in the visa?
Well, to begin with, you cannot bring your family into the kingdom. You may be a well-paid doctor or an engineer, but if your visa says that your profession is, for example, a laborer, then you cannot bring your family because laborers cannot afford / are not allowed to keep their families with them. Never mind if you are not one, but that's what your visa says! Strange, isn't it, but that's how it works here. You will also not be allowed to take a car driving license for certain lower level categories.
I had already mentioned in one of my earlier posts about this problem. The safest thing for you to do as soon as your visa has been stamped in your passport, is to go to someone who knows Arabic and get your job title mentioned in your visa translated and explained. This would save you a lot of trouble later when you come into the kingdom. Many employers simply bring people on whatever visa is available with them. Some of them may not even tell you about your job title on the visa, and those who do tell you may probably promise you that once inside the kingdom it can always be changed. Don't fall for it, because this is just next to impossible.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Job title, salary and position

If you are a potential expatriate planning to work in Saudi Arabia, the first thing you should remember is to forget your job title / designation you were holding in your current company in your home country. There are several instances of people who had occupied senior positions in their own countries who had been total failures after coming to the kingdom. The reason is not far to seek.
Human tendency is to resist change. People who have worked in good positions in their countries should never ever come to Saudi Arabia and expect the same level of perks / respect. Remember, you are coming to work here only for money - nothing more, nothing less! If you have contracted to work in a senior position, particularly in a government organization, then good luck to you because sooner or later, your position will be Saudized - i.e., you will be replaced by a Saudi national. If you have contracted to work in a very junior position, then you better be careful about the reputation of the company to escape being ill-treated. The bottom line is that if you are going to get paid fairly well and that your company is taking care of most of your expenses (for example, round trip tickets for you and your family, medical/dental and education expenses for your family, etc.), then there is a fairly high chance that you have landed in the right job.
In any case, your intention to come to Saudi Arabia for work should be only money. Do not expect people to treat you like a General Manager, just because you were a General Manager in your home country! It doesn't work here that way. The sooner you realize this, the longer is your stay in the kingdom. Every day you are here is a bonus, because you have come here to make tax-free money which was not there in your home country.
Of course, it doesn't mean that you have to crawl, but if you feel you can't take it any more, it is better to quitely move out rather than trying to fight for your rights - you dont have them anyway! Make your money and be ready to call it quits any day, because as the saying goes, the only thing certain in the Gulf is uncertainty!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Unscrupulous recruitment agents

One of the sad facets of expatriates working in Saudi Arabia is the problem faced by literally thousands of underpaid and fleeced people, most of them from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal. It is not clear whether it is poverty or ignorance or both, which drives people to work in Saudi Arabia for a pittance.
I have seen janitors from the Indian subcontinent work for just SR400 a month, when they could have easily got a similar job in their own home countries if only they had tried a bit more. Worse, most of these illiterate poor people have been cheated by unscrupulous recruitment agents. The most common problem is that these agents promise them the moon, take hefty amounts as recruitment charges, and send them bag and baggage in the next available flight to Saudi Arabia. It is only upon landing here that these people come to know the vast difference in the salaries they were promised and are actually paid. With just no money to even buy their return tickets, they simply work as virtual slaves. Some of them, out of sheer desparation, jump sponsors and work elsewhere illegally, and sadly, some of them even go to the extent of suicide.
There are some of them who have borrowed huge sums of money, paid the agents hefty amounts, have purchased their own tickets and landed here only to face despair.
How does one identify whether an agent is genuine or not? Well, to begin with, just see the advertisement. Check whether the license number of the agent is mentioned at the bottom of the advertisement. As an example, if the license number is, say, xxxxx/BOM/PER/1000+/......., then it means that the agent is a reputed one. Instead of the number "1000+", if it is, say, "600+" or "500" or any number other than 1000, then absolute caution must be taken. And if you do not find the license number, then don't even touch it with a barge pole!
If the agent charges a fee for recruiting you, DO NOT TAKE THE OFFER. It just means that the agent is making money out of you.
Reputed companies always ensure that the agent charges nothing from the candidates. If you are going to pay a fee to the agent for getting employed in Saudi Arabia or for your air fare, then rest assured that your stay here is going to be miserable. The reason? Either the company which recruits you doesn't want to bear this cost or the agent is so bad that he wants to make a quick buck out of you. In either case, it is not really worth it. And never ever ever give your qualification certificate to your employer / interviewer for safe keeping as he will use it to browbeat you - this is no joke, it has happened to people! Believe me, no place in the world is paradise as Home Sweet Home. If you really do want to come and work in Saudi Arabia, ensure that you work in a good company and that your agent is a reputed one.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Expatriate problems in Saudi Arabia

Working in Saudi Arabia for an expatriate could be quite a challenge. One of the common problems faced by expatriates, particularly those who have come to work in Saudi Arabia for the first time, is homesickness. The difference in culture, background, language and the fact that one is away from family all add up to this feeling. Usually, you will find someone from your own country and will quickly make new friends. This is the best way to come out of the shell and gradually the homesickness would fade away over time.

As a thumb rule, if you have survived successfully for the first three months after arrival, then you are more or less certain to do so for quite a long time. However, there are cases of people not settling down and do not find it comfortable enough to continue. Please do note that you have to be prepared to pay your air fare back home yourself. You have made a contract with your company and if you want to go back so soon, no sponsor will be ready to bear your return ticket. On the contrary, it is more likely that the sponsor will not even allow you to even go out of the kingdom as he has spent his time and money to recruit you (remember, you need his approval stamp in the exit visa). But you must really make a decision before coming, whether you want the money or whether you want to enjoy life. The hard reality is that you can't have both at the same time!

There's not much of entertainment activity here other than satellite television, so the best way to keep yourself engaged is to develop a good circle of friends. This will also help you get a good accommodation when your family arrives. Most of the good apartments and household items get sold by word of mouth, so it is essential that you develop a good network of friends. International phone calls still cost a fortune here and broadband internet connection is still not very common, though it is picking up fast. It would be cheaper to talk home through internet chatting (there are quite a few net cafes around) atleast initially, till you settle down.

If you find these practical tips helpful, do drop in a line which will motivate me to write more.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Exit Re-entry visa

One needs a visa to enter a foreign country. But in Saudi Arabia, one needs a visa to both enter as well as get out of the country. Once inside the country, an expatriate needs a so-called 'Exit / Re-entry visa' to go out and return to the kingdom. In other words, even if you have your passport and a ticket in your hands, you would not be able to get out of the country without an exit / re-entry visa ~X( This could be quite a pain, particularly in case of a personal emergency when an expatriate wishes to leave the kingdom urgently.
There are 2 types of Exit / Re-entry visas - single and multiple. A single exit / re-entry visa is valid only once, i.e., for going out and returning. Once you return to the kingdom on a single visa, the validity is cancelled and you have to obtain a fresh Exit / Re-entry visa for your next trip out of the kingdom. On the other hand, a multiple exit / re-entry visa is valid for traveling any number of times back and forth out of and into the kingdom, but is valid only for 6 months from the date of first exit out of the country. In both cases, i.e., single as well as multiple visas, the sponsor's consent is required. In other words, your sponsor can actually decide when you can go out and re-enter the kingdom.
A single visa costs SR200. You are supposed to leave the kingdom within 30 days of the date of stamping and return before the date specified on the visa. Again, this is left to the discretion of your sponsor whether to apply for a validity of 1 month or 1 year 8- Usually, exit / re-entry visas are never given for more than a year.
A multiple visa costs SR500. The advantage is that once you have the passport and the ticket in your hands, you are free to go out of the kingdom and return within 6 months from the date of first departure. However, your sponsor's consent is required for this too for applying a multiple visa.
Most expatriates prefer to hold a multiple visa and prefer to pay the difference of their entitlement and requirement. That is, if the contract says that an annual vacation is your entitlement, and if you require a multiple visa, then you pay the balance of SR300 to get it, provided of course your sponsor agrees to the same.
If you liked the above information, do drop in your comments which will encourage me to write more. Your comments are my motivation =D>