Sunday, October 12, 2008

Expatriate Grievance Cell

Contrary to popular belief, expatriates working in Saudi Arabia are protected by Saudi law and they do have certain rights. This post is meant to throw light on some of those rights and what to do in case any of the expatriates has a problem with his sponsor. Before explaining the rights of expats, I would also like to caution that under no circumstances must expatriates violate the local law. As mentioned earlier (click this link), you have come for money, nothing more, nothing less, so do not break any law if you want protection under the same law.

It is not a bed or roses for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia. The majority of the expat population falls under non-supervisory category. Most of them are quite lowly-paid and there are certainly instances where the sponsor plays foul. Most of these cases pertain to non-payment or delayed payment of salaries, asking expats to pay for their residence visas (iqama), their exit/re-entry visas, etc. Coming from poor backgrounds, most of these men simply do not know where or whom to approach when they are in trouble. Sadly, some of them simply abscond and work illegally elsewhere till they are either caught by the police or till they voluntarily surrender themselves for being deported.

During a recent flight home, I saw atleast 50 odd people who were travelling on the same flight as mine, all of whom were deported after serving a brief term in jail. Their crime was working illegally and overstaying in the kingdom. All of them had the same story to tell - non payment of salaries and ill-treatment by their sponsors. Not one of them had a clue of what was to be done, so they took the easy route of absconding and working illegally elsewhere, till they were caught. As their passports were with their original sponsor, they had no documentary proof and all of them were jailed and later deported.

Expatriates working in Saudi Arabia must definitely be aware of the following rights:

  • Timely and monthly payment of salaries as agreed upon and signed in the employment contract in the home country (Note: some of the expatriates are paid far less than what was agreed in their home countries and are forced to sign fresh contracts contrary to what was signed in their original ones once they arrive in the kingdom. This is clearly illegal).

  • The cost of the residence permit (iqama) issued soon after arrival, the cost of its renewal as well as the cost of renewing exit/re-entry visas as well as final exit visa are all the sponsor's responsibility. No expatriate should be forced to pay in either full or part of any of the above.

  • Fully paid vacation (unless otherwise agreed in the contract).

  • Free accommodation or equivalent amount as agreed in the contract

  • Free transportation from residence to place of work and back, or its equivalent amount as agreed in the contract

  • Free health care. Note that health insurance for every expatriate is compulsory and the cost of the same is to be borne by the sponsor.

  • Payment of End of Service benefits at the end of the contract

If any expatriate has genuine grievances on any of the above, he should contact what is known as "Expatriate Grievance Cell". This is a facility run by the Ministry of Labor, Government of Saudi Arabia. A letter in Arabic, detailing the nature of grievance and including the full name and address of the sponsor, must be faxed to 012104565. The letter must also have the full details of the complainants, including passport / iqama numbers and contact details.

I would also strongly advise such expatriates to get in touch with their respective embassies with a copy of the above fax. Usually, all embassies have a legal cell who would help them with an Arabic speaking lawyer in a labor court. Remember, all transactions in courts and all government departments are in Arabic, so getting professional help is a must. Also, do not wait for months together before deciding to make a complaint.

I really wish none of our expatriate brothers and sisters ever use the information above. But it helps to be informed.

Hope you found the above post useful.


sheila hare said...

Hi Expat Guru, just read Sunday's blog, incredible stuff, you should be writing for Nexus!! ha ha
Anyway, that Gulf News piece would have been published the date I sent it to you, which was the 10th. I'll try to retrieve it, if its any different will let you know.
Will be mentioning the blog on today's forum posts at Expat Network, thanks. We are wanting to put up some blogspots on our website, would you consider going on our homepage?

Expatguru said...

Thanks, Sheila. Will certainly do that.

Plsk1n said...

Great piece, very informative! I do see that expatriates from poor backgrounds have a lot of hard times with their sponsors. I do read time to time that the sponsorship system is discussed with plans of a better replacement.. where expatriates don't have to fear abuse from their sponsor.

However, I do view that embassies of poor background expatriates fall short in terms of effort to help their citizens. I really do hope those embassies do a lot more effort to help out their nationals.

Expatguru said...


Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comments. You are absolutely right. The paradox is that countries with far less number of expatrites but which are quite powerful, wield much more influence than those with a large number of expatriates. I guess it all depends on the seriousness with which the respective countries' embassies deal with their fellow citizens' problems.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

I am really wondered about your gathering all related info, summarisation and presenting it with utmost care. Keep it up..

I have one query (doubt) on the info about Iqama renewal and exit/rentry visa charges.

My wife is a Doctor working with MOH and she only paying the iqama renewal (SR 500/year) and Exit/reentry visa charges (SR200) for the last 3 years. Infact, MOH only provide ticket for vacation. To get the ticket on hand she is paying SR 88 as airport tax. She also confirmed me that all her expat colleagues doing the same from top level to bottom.

While I agree with your info is true for most of the private companies, I am wondered how MOH (Government?) is asking its employees to pay for their iqama & reentry visa charges. Request your goodselves to throw some light on this and clarify.

Expatguru said...


Thanks for your comments. I take great care in ensuring that whatever I write here is 100% correct. I stand by what I have said.

To specifically answer your question, I would like to quote word by word the following paragraph from the New Labor Law, Part III, Article (40)(1):


An employer shall incur the fees pertaining to recruitment of non-Saudi workers, the fees of the residence permit (Iqama) and work permit together with their renewal and the fines resulting from their delay, as well as the fees pertaining to change of profession, exit and re-entry visas and return tickets to the worker's home country at the end of the relation between the
two parties.


I am not sure if your wife has signed in her contract with MOH specifically agreeing to pay for these expenses. If not, please ask her to explain this to her employers. I cannot answer for MOH, but I can certainly say that this is mentioned in the new labor law as above.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for your time and support to inform peoplewho have been wronged of their rights.
Great job keep going.
You are a Hero

Expatguru said...

Thanks, Anonymous. This service will always be totally free and if any expatriate brother or sister has benefitted from my writing, then my day has been done! Do keep visiting my blog.

Anonymous said...

Dear Expartguru,
Thanks for the info.
I'm malaysian. you really did great a job.
I'm 36, is it too old to work in Saudi?
Anyway, keep it up...dude.

Expatguru said...


I am older than you, and am still working!!

You can continue to work until you reach 58 years (actually it is 60, but in Hijri calendar it comes to around 58 years).

Micper said...

Dear Sir,
In the above comments you Quoted the Article 40 from new Labor law. I would like to read all the articles just for awareness, where can I find it? Will you please help me in this regard.
Thanks a lot in advance.

Siraj said...

Dear Expat Guru,
Thanks for your efforts.
I kindly request you to write articles on the following:
1. Precautions and instructions for those who are going on / coming from vacation. Luggage, Parcels from unauthentic source, booking, reservation, extension of dates, reconfirmation, validity of exit/ re-entry visa,
2. Communication in KSA, Mobile snatchers, SIM card lost, Contacts backup, Internet Calling cards, Net Chatting, Net Cafe, Offers in SAWA, Mobily and Zain etc....
3. Social life, transportation, local and int'l Courier services, shopping, etc. etc.
Awaiting for your reply.

Expatguru said...


You could get it from any lawyer's office, if he is willing to give it to you. It is not available for sale as a book in the open market.

Expatguru said...


The biggest problem facing expatriates working in Saudi Arabia is lack of information. This blog was started precisely for that and within such a short period, it has become so popular, thanks to readers like you who have been providing valuable support. I would certainly write about the topics you have suggested in due course. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Dear Expart Guru,

My hubby fr Malaysia joined an IT consultant company in Riyadh last ramadan. The total income is SAR405annually. Sound good eh! First mth pay since my hubby hasnt got his iqama yet ie no bank account, he ask the company to keep his salary temporarily. Come to second mth no pay yet and third mth approaching...?? They have even used up his first mth salary. All the employee there are expart professionals and everybody is affected. The company has problem with their cash flow and their credit facilities. Its so frustrating now for me and my kids since we are getting ready to join him there. I have already quit my 75K income and now my hubby is not sure weather to bring us there or not. Everybody there(office collegues) is just keeping quite and hoping that the employer will pay soon. According to my hubby the employer is a nice guy so they dont have the heart to complain. But I told him that u are not there to do charity and you are there just for the money. I thought that the biggest challenge for my hubby would be adapting to the weather and culture only but SALARY NOT PAID, that we are not prepared. Soon I have to send him money from our saving just enough for his daily expenses. Do you think that if he complain now it would make matter worst.. because no matter what he still want them to pay 101k on the third mth. Its so embarrasing to complain to the Malaysian embassy.Pleasseee advise us. Thank You.

Expatguru said...


First and foremost, let me make one thing clear. We expatriates have come to the kingdom to make money, nothing more nothing less. When your husband's sponsor is not embarrassed by not paying his employees, why should your hubby be embarrassed in asking for his pay?

Ask your husband to first have a detailed talk with his sponsor. If things do not seem to improve, he must pack his bags and leave the kingdom immediately. It is easy now, because his iqama is still not made yet. Of course, in the short run it would be difficult with both of you without a job, but atleast you will be one as a family and would be spared of this agony. Your husband must approach the embassy only if the sponsor delays or refuses to pay.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your caring advise and prompt reply. God bless you!!

Haroon said...

Dear ExpGru,
My brother purchased my Visa through an agnet (Maktab). They renewed my Iqama by taking some additional amount, as usual. Till now, I don't know who is my Kafil.
I am just like a hanging fish in flowing water.
I would like to meet/contact my kafil.
Is there any gov website, where I can find the details? Plz help me in this regard. What should I do to reach him.
Thank you in advance.

Expatguru said...


I really sympathize with your plight. Many expats fall into this trap unknowingly. The only way to reach your sponsor is through the agent from whom you bought this visa. However, it is extremely unlikely that he will reveal this, because he will lose his commission from both sides. Unfortunately, there isn't any website which will give the information about your sponsor. By the way, do you think your sponsor also would be bothered even if you approach him? He has anyway made his money by selling it to the agent, isn't it? Better search for another sponsor by getting a release. Maybe you can negotiate with your agent by paying some money and getting this done. Good luck!

Uzman said...

Dear Expatguru

I need some help from you regarding a situation I have landed myself in.

I was hired by a large saudi group early this year to set up a new business for them. The group had committed a certain capital for the business and based on the fact that there is a high probability I signed in a contract of 3 years with the group.

Please note that my contract was with the group and not the new company and as per the contract following is the exit clause as mentioned in the contract :

1. The contract is valid from the join date for 36 Gregorian month with the first three months considered as probationary period.

The contract is automatically renewed for one year period unless 1st party (employer) notifies the 2nd party (employee) of his wish of not renewing the contract before one month of completion of the original or renewed period.

2. In case the 2nd party has a desire to resign from work he shall give prior written notice to the 1st party at least (3) months before leaving of work.

I was sacrificing a good career with a multinational company and therefore at the time of joining made sure with the recruiter and the administration department of the group that in case the business does not fly or the group decides to shelf the project I will be compensated for the three years of contract and to this they both provided their affirmation.

It took me six months to set up the infrastructure of the business and put the team together. During the process the CEO of the group also approved the plan and the capital requirement of the business. However, when the time came to make the capital available the group started mentioning its inability to raise the funds because of the fact that they had lost a lot of money because of the financial crisis and that if I have to start the business i should raise funding. Considering the situation of the market I understood the groups point of view and started arranging for funding. However after two weeks of this discussion I was handed over a letter by the Administration department stating that my services have been terminated and the group will pay one month's salary. The reason stated in the letter was that due to the financial crisis the group has decided not to pursue the business and therefore the contract is being terminated.

Pls note that I have a few colleagues of mine who had just arrived in the Kingdom and have the similar contract as mine. These people have been asked to leave the company without payment of any salary as they had been in the job for a few days and were on probation.

I am sure you understand that we are in times of recession and it is very hard to find new jobs. The group says that it is their legal right to close down the business on one months notice. I have requested them to give at least three months of time (which as per the contract is the notice period we have to give to the company if we decide to resign; the company can only exit from the contract at the renewal of the contract) to the team so that they have enough breathing space to find new jobs for them; which the group has refused.

With regards to the above situation I have following questions :

1. Does the group have the right to cancel the contract unilaterally stating that since the company is closing we have the right to terminate the contract. Pls note that our contracts are with the group. The new company is not even a legal entity today.

2. Can the group ascertain the notice period by themselves without taking into consideration what the contract has to say ?

3. Does the people who have recently joined the group have any right to demand for a reasonable exit, considering the fact that they have relocated themselves to this country only to find out that they have to go back as the business has been closed because of unavailability of the group to provide the committed capital.

4. What should be an amicable solution to the issue and how should we get the group to agree on it ?

I would really appreciate your input on the above issue as I can see a lot of people coming on the street.

Thanks and Regards

Expatguru said...


I feel so sorry for your plight. Just shows the contempt some people have for professionals.

I understand that your contract is with the group, not with any of their subsidiaries.

Before going into specifics, I would like to mention the following.

Article 81(1) of the Labor Law clearly states that a worker may leave his job without notice if the employer fails to fulfill his essential contractual or statutory obligations towards the worker.

1. The group cannot terminate a contract simply because one of its subsidiaries, with which you do not have any contract, is closing down. The 30 days notice is only for contracts of an indefinite term, as per Article 75 of the Labor Law. You do not fall under this category and you have a very clear contract which says that in case the group shuts down, they would have to compensate you for the rest of the contract.

2. The group has to abide by whatever the contract says. Secondly, as mentioned above, the 30 day notice period is only for indefinite term conracts. What the group is doing is both illegal and unethical.

3. If the people who have joined recently are still on probation, they cannot claim any compensation. However, they have to be paid salaries for the days worked as also their return air tickets.

I would like to quote Article 77 which states as below:

"If the contract is terminated for an invalid reason, the party who is
harmed by such termination shall be entitled to indemnity to be assessed by the Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes, taking into account the termination circumstances and actual and potential material and moral damages sustained."

Clearly, injustice has been done to you. You are free to approach the Labor Court (take the help of your country's embassy for legal assistance, if you are planning to do so - remember, everything in the courts would be in Arabic). But practically speaking, you may have to wait probably for several months or years before the final verdict comes. If the group has a lot of clout, it may take years together. You would have to sustain yourself and your family for that period.

I would suggest the following. Have a frank discussion with your CEO and tell him that legally what they are doing is wrong. See if you can get a negotiated compensation, say a lumpsum amount which may be less than the ultimate compensation. Throw enough hints that you plan to go to the courts otherwise. If nothing works, just leave by the next available flight. You are better off without such people. The world is full of opportunities and it is only a matter of time before you get a good break. Good luck!

Uzman said...

Dear Expat Guru,

First of all thank you so much for your quick reply and addressing some of our key concerns.

We've had a meeting with the CEO and he has categorically given the commitment that the contract will be terminated only as per the law. He has referred the matter to one of his lawyers who we donot know. We believe that the lawyer will come up with something which is not in our favor. We would like to take a written legal opinion on the matter. We would appreciate if you can direct us to a Law firm which can help us in this matter.



Expatguru said...


I would advise you NOT to sign any document under pressure, more so if it is in Arabic. If in doubt, get it translated in English and ask for time. If you need legal assistance, I would advise you to contact your country's embassy rather than approaching any private law firm.

Archie said...

Dear Expatguru,

A very warm Good morning to you. Insaallah - all your dreams must come true.This side Archie here. Thanks for your help I have done my B.E Engineering Degree certificate attestation from University of Madras ( Through Ministry of HRD)& then Ministry of External Affairs & Saudi Counselate( Last 2 in Delhi) & by God's grace I have finished all these within 5 working days . Thanks for your help & suggestion unless it would have taken months.

Sir, recently I have given my passport & my attested certificates to my Mumbai Consultant for Visa which they have deposited to Saudi Counselate on 4th of Feb 09. Can you give me some idea that approx how much time it takes for getting the working visa?

Another thing I want a small help that I will be moving to Yanbu- is there any Indian school there for my kids?( for 4th Std & 2nd Std) & if it is there what will be the approx cost.

Last but not the least what I should do for getting furnished accomodation there - or I should opt for normal accomodation & buy the necessary things.

I also want to be a member of your group for helping all fellow Indian brotthers & sisters who are staying outside & earning the hard earned money- pls allow me to be in your group.

Expatguru said...


Glad to know that my blog has been of use to you.

Usually the visa process takes approximately 15 days, so you need to be patient. There is no Indian school in Yanbu, the nearest one is in Jeddah. Getting a furnished accommodation by your employer is advisable due to the ever-increasing rents. It is hassle-free.

Finally, there is no such thing as a "group". This is my personal which I operate alone. I do not charge anyone a single penny for this. This is just my hobby and I have a regular work other than this. Thanks for your offer, but I am open to any suggestions or topics which you may like me to write about.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
I had written to you about my husband who is in Saudi Arabia for over five months. he is at a manegerial level, but due to recession has not got any order for the past five months. he is really depressed & wants to come home. I have few queries:
1. you had told me that he can resign & come. Is there a period that he has to work after giving his resignation
2. will there be a lot of monetory compensation associated
3. will they trouble him after he resigns

please answer back. i am really banking on your reply. this would help us decide on our next move.

hoping to read your answer at the earliest.

thank you so much.
regards ABC

Expatguru said...


It all depends on the contract your husband has signed. Usually it is 30 days. There would be no monetary compensation, but your husband may probably have to end up paying his return air fare. Whether they would trouble him after he resigns is a question no one knows. If your husband has cordial relationship with his employer, his exit would be smooth. Ask him not to fight with his employer as it would leave him in deeper trouble. Rather, ask him to quote family problems as his reason for quitting - this would not hurt his employer's ego and at the same time his exit would be smooth.

Abdul said...

I have got a contract from one Sudia company, I have a couple questions: the first one: The contact says a one month notice is required to terminate the contarct. I am asking is this valid from my side or the company side? The contarct is in English and not clear that notice of one month. My gess feeling it is valid only from the company side only? The ther question is about the midical test cost for the Sudia visa, the contarct does not say who will bear the expensis? can somebody explain?

Expatguru said...


1-month notice is on either side. All expenses regarding visa/iqama are to be borne by the employer as per the Saudi Labor Law.

Annonymous said...

Dear Expatguru,

I am working in Saudi Arabia for the past 1 year for a large group whcih started a plant in Western region. Things were going smooth until due to the over budgeting and improper management things went haywire and the company was in lot of debts.

Now the top level management hired a foreigner whose aim is to reduce cost and fire people for some reason or the other.

Till now many indians either have been fired or submitted resignation confirming, no increase in salary for next two years.

1. I have no job security, you know how difficult to get a job.
2. I am losing peace of mind.
3. The company will not give NOC for terminated people again to come and work in different company.

What should i do in this case. I am waiting for your reply.


Anonymous said...

If an employee is absconding from work , do we need to still settle his end of service settlement with leave salary, etc.
Awaiting for your reply.

Expatguru said...


Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized reply.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
I came to Saudi Arabia in March,2011 and currently working in a small construction company as an Electrical Engineer. It has been 5 months almost working here but unfortunately I have not been paid any salary as yet. Whenever I ask my employer for the salary he ends up saying that company is under huge dept and unless or until new contract will be signed he cant give me salary. Actually the condition of all the employees is same. They are not paying salary to anybody. Since I joined here the company has not signed any contract.

Please help me out from this situation sir because I dont want to wait anymore. And please also advice me how can I take legal actions against them. Where and how should I approach to get my rights? I want to teach them the lesson.

Your prompt reply will be highly appreciated. Thanks for time and consideration.

Expatguru said...


There are two options for you. Either you go to the labor court and fight it out, which might probably takes years, if not months. Alternatively, contact your embassy immediately who will arrange for an exit pass for you. Atleast you will get out of this torture and go back to your family.

Anonymous said...

Dear ExpatGuru,

I have been working with one company for 6 years as a seaman (ships captain, vessel more than 500 GRT, offshore of Saudi Arabia) and now I going to resigned.
But, at first 4 years I have been worked without Iqama as a offshore worker, and for the last 2 years only I was promoted and have been worked as a onshore expert with issued iqama.
In line of above kindly advise me, shall I get the End of Service benefit for all period of my service (i.e. 6 years) or 2 years only since my first Iqama had been issued

Thanks in advance.


Expatguru said...


Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized reply by email.

Anonymous said...

Dear expat guru,

I will like to get your advice and suggestion for my problem, I'm working in Yanbu saudi Arabia with EPC korean company, since last 8 months and I'm completed my 6 months probation and I'm into procurement and authorized signatory for purchase order issues and as evidence I have supplier credit application with chamber of commerce stamp. Now I Have been terminated with immediate effect saying that I have issued the change the supplier, since I was forced by my manager to issue the purchase order to his known trader, since this dealing was going manufacturer from last 3 months and after getting material approval from client, my immediate was going on vacation before an hour he order me to issue the P. O to the trader it was surprise for me and understandable something fishy going on and followed his order and made the P. O and given to him not send to trader, next day I received the mail from the manufacture about the status, so I ask the new manager what to reply and explain him briefly abt the situation and provided him the documents to go through it and it was clear that price was not changed it was same, he also understand and instructed me to cancel earlier p.o and issue it to manufacturer since he was in the deal from early stage and issued and cc the mails to all asusual, And now since my boss has come from his vacation and same day he complaint abt me and issue the termination letter but I did not agree with that point but company said me not toncome office from today and holded my June month salary as well... Please suggest me what to do to save my pristine and grt my benefits and I have all evidence to prove I was right and did good for the company.

Waiting for your reply eagerly.

Thanks & Best Regards

Expatguru said...


Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized reply by email.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Expatguru said...

All details are in this link

Anonymous said...

Dear Expat Guru,

Can you please mail me your contact point on my personnel Mail ID: (email id edited by Expatguru)

I could not find the link form.

Thanks & Best Regards,

Anonymous said...

Respected Sir...I am from Jeddah and i have a dependant iqama.Presently i am searching for a job in Jeddah.My wife is working in Qassim province in Moh and she is under Moh sponsership.I want her to come to Jeddah to work here.As mutual transfer is not possible because no one from Jeddah would like to go i had a few queries..1.will she be able to work as a doc if i transfer to my sponsorship if i get my own iqama as i am a doctor too once i get a job.2.if shes a dependant under me and suppose she gets a job offer can i transfer her to the hosp sponsorship directly after giving n.o.c. From my side without her coming on a new visa jus like i am a dependant and i am allowed to do transfer..3.during her contract can i do her transfer to my iqama or is it possible only after resignation.4.Is there any other way possible?...thank you...awaiting your reply.

Expatguru said...


Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized and confidential reply by email.

Anonymous said...

Mohammed Al Zoabi MAZCO is one of the worst company of Saudi Arabia who are exploiting the employees by delaying their salaries, vacation amount and ESB. There is no fixed date of paying salary to the employees since the company started. There is no responsible person in this company who can hear the pleas of its employees. The staff does not give proper response and information on hearing the problem of the employees. The owners are not bothered also for their employees. They are rotating the payroll money of their employees received from their clients for their personal benefit. They just make false promises to the employees. The employees of this company are suffering a lot which affect their families also due to not able to send the money for their needs.

Please beware to join this company.

Anonymous said...

Dear sirs

We are working in National Plastic Rope Factory Co, in Second Industrial city Dammam- tel 0138122055, There is one Indian man name Shakeel Ahmed get to gether with Saudi man, send many of our workers - with out any reason, we are nepalis, Sri lankan, Indian and others also sent many saudi ladies also to their home, we worked here many years but no any benefites- some are paid some are not given the rights- always problem and they bring some illegal mihaalis - yemenis around 45 working in day and night- those who have no ID placed in night and paying high salary- please take action to protect saudi ladies and other works. thank you