Saturday, August 23, 2008

Permanent family visa for Saudi Arabia

The biggest problem facing expatriates working in Saudi Arabia is bringing one's family into the kingdom. I had already covered the procedure for the same earlier (please click this link). But this was for bringing one's family on a visit visa. I would now like to mention the procedure for bringing one's family on a permanent visa.
I have mentioned several times in the past about the profession in the residence permit or iqama (See this link for more details). The biggest hurdle facing an expatriate working in Saudi Arabia is the profession in his iqama. It is quite common to find people working in one profession whereas his iqama would have something else as a profession. In fact, one ex-Principal of an international school here, a professor with a double doctorate, had to resign in frustration and go back, as he could not bring his family here. The reason? His profession was mentioned as a painter, and as per the rules, a painter cannot sponsor his wife! What a pity!
Coming back to our topic, the first thing you should do is to check your iqama profession. If it is mentioned as "Labor" or "Operator" or "Secretary" or any other non-supervisory category, you can straightaway assume that you cannot bring your family either on visit or on permanent visa. But if you are qualified, i.e., a degree holder and yet your iqama profession is in one of those mentioned in the 'restricted' list, then the best way out is to get your profession changed as mentioned here (please click here) and then apply for a family visa.
Next, you must get the following certificates attested in your home country.
1. Your original degree / diploma certificate
2. Your original marriage certificate
3. Copies of Birth certificates of your children
You also need the following:
1. Arabic translation of your marriage certificate
2. Arabic translation of your degree / diploma certificate
Note that all of these have to be done in your home country. For your degree certificate, you must first get the same attested by the HRD Ministry or the Ministry of Education (where applicable) of your home country's government. Once this is done, it has to be re-attested by the Saudi Embassy in your home country.
Once all the above are ready, they have to be brought to the kingdom by you. Now, you need two more documents. The first is your salary certificate which has to be attested by the Chamber of Commerce in your city. The next is an introduction letter from your sponsor in Arabic, complete with all the details of your salary, your position in the company, etc., in the company letter head with the signature of your company's authorized representative and company seal.
Approach any of the numerous agents here and get all the processing done through them. This would save you time and energy. However, you can also get the work done here yourself. In that case, do the following.
Get an application form for permanent family visa and fill all the details in Arabic. You may need an Arabic-speaking person next to you to do this. Make sure that there are no mistakes. Next, submit the following to the Passport Department ( Jawasat )in your city:
1. Original family visa application
2. Copy of your iqama
3. Original salary certificate / introduction letter from your company in Arabic with salary details attested by the Chamber of Commerce
4. Copy of the passport of each one in your family (eg., wife and each child)
5. Copy of birth certificate for each of your children
6. Arabic translation of the copy of your marriage certificate
7 Copy of your degree / diploma certificate which has been attested.
9. Arabic translation of your degree / diploma certificate.
9. Copy of your passport
10. Copy of your work permit card (the original is normally attached to the passport and will be in custody of your sponsor)
If you are going personally, keep ready with you the originals of the following:
1. Original degree certificate
2. Original marriage certificate
3. Original iqama
4. Original work permit card
The above may be required for verification and depends on the mood of the officer across the counter :)
If everything goes well, he will give you a so-called 'Yellow Slip' immediately. Get a color photo copy of this yellow slip for your records and send the original to your family in your home country.
Ask them to submit copies of all of the above documents, along with the original yellow slip and original passports of your wife and children to the consulate of embassy of the Saudi Government in your home country. Usually, if it is not Ramadan or Haj season, you should get a permission to proceed for medical test within 2 weeks. Once this is obtained, ask your family to get the medical test in the authorized place (mentioned by the Embassy). This medical report must be again submitted to the embassy. That's it. The visa would be stamped on the passports of your family and they just have to buy their tickets to join you in the kingdom.
Hope the above post was useful. Do let me know of the same. Your appreciation is my motivation to write more.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Road accidents in Saudi Arabia

Working in Saudi Arabia is a challenge, but driving in Saudi roads is much more than that. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia has one of the worst records of road safety in the world. This post is meant to guide those expatriates working in Saudi Arabia who are caught in an unfortunate accident. I really wish none of you use the tips given here and everyone has a safe drive on the roads. Nevertheless, it always helps to know what to do in an emergency. Ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous :-?
I have already mentioned in one of my previous posts (click here) of the importance of carrying your documents with you. You MUST definitely carry your original iqama, vehicle insurance card, driving license, vehicle registratiion (istemara) and vehicle ownership cards with you all the time. Remember that driving in Saudi Arabia without a valid insurance is a crime and you could be jailed for the same. Unfortunately, these rules are strictly implemented only for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia and not for the locals >:P
Usually new cars should be covered with a comprehensive insurance, but it is economical to take a third party insurance if your car is more than 5 years old, as the book value of your car would have been almost reduced to zero due to depreciation. Click on this link for more information about it.
The first thing you must do if you are caught in an accident is NOT to move your car until the police arrives. Just put on the hazard lights and stand by the road side, and do not bother about the traffice behind or ahead of you. If you try moving your car, you could land in a more serious offence of trying to tamper with evidence, so be careful
Once the police arrives, they will first ask for your iqama and you as well as the other party will be asked to go to the police station. If the accident is serious, usually an ambulance would accompany the police and the area would be cleared of the junk in no time.
When you reach the police station, all conversation would be in Arabic, so if possible try contacting your Government Relations Officer / your sponsor / any of your Arabic speaking friends over phone and ask him to come to the police station immediately. Try to avoid signing in any kind of document until your sponsor arrives on the spot. Remember, this is the most important part.
Once, a Saudi hit my vehicle from behind and I was asked to sign a document by the police. In good faith, I signed the same and the next day when I took a friend to the police station, he explained to me that I have signed a paper which said that everything was my own fault and that I am releasing the Saudi guy of all offences and that all repair would be borne by me ^#(^ Of course, not all policemen are mean, but you never know who is good or bad, so take all precautions.
You may sometimes find yourself in a tight situation that your sponsor cannot come and that the police is forcing you to sign some document. In that case, do sign but write above your signature that you do not understand anything what is written above. Believe me, this is for your own safety.
Never ever reveal to the other party that you have vehicle insurance. It is very common for the locals not to carry any kind of papers including insurance ( I am not blaming all of them, but this is usually the case). Once the guy knows that you have insurance, he may try to negotiate with the cop and see that a part of the blame is shifted on you (again, one cannot generalize, but it happened to me, so be careful). The cop will usually split the fault to both the parties as a percentage, i.e., 0%-100%, 50-50, 75-25 or 100-0% etc. This refers to the percentage fault and the amount of damage also varies in proportion to this. Of course, if someone hits your vehicle from behind, he is at 100% fault.
The next few days could be traumatic without a vehicle as you would be asked to bring three quotations from authorized workshops. The lowest of the three would have to be borne by the other party, if he is at fault or vice versa. The amount is to be paid / recovered from the other party in front of the police and only then the case would be closed. Make sure that this is done, because you would not be allowed to leave the kingdom on vacation or on exit as it would appear in the computer against your iqama number if it is still pending.
Good luck and have a safe drive!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Saudi Expatriate Expectations

Ever since this blog was started, it has become extremely popular among all the potential and existing expatriates by the day. This just shows the dearth of reliable information available for expatriates in Saudi Arabia.

I have been frequently getting comments from a few people voicing their opinions about working in Saudi Arabia. My attention is particularly drawn towards those which are rather negative, because it reflects either a lack of awareness or probably contempt or maybe a combination of both.

I have already covered in my earlier post about this, but would like to now emphasize a few points here. Before coming to Saudi Arabia, you must first decide what you need. Are you looking for a cozy life, lots of fun and frolic, alcohol, entertainment and enjoyment, etc? Sorry Sir, this is not the place for you. To put it bluntly, expatriates working in Saudi Arabia are here for tax-free money, nothing more nothing less!

There are a lot of blogs which paint quite a negative picture about this country and a lot more potential expatriates who have a pre-conceived mindset that this place is nothing short of hell on earth. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion on anything. I have seen some expatriates, who at the end of the day, have nothing but a mouthful of abuse on the system. Agreed, it is not a bed of roses here, but who compels you to work here if you are not comfortable? You chose to come here because you wanted the money, no one invited you with a red carpet. One cannot enjoy the tax-free money and at the same time complain about the system and the society where one works. It's either take it or leave it.

I have my own opinions too, like everyone else, but they would never appear in public domain in this blog. The intention of this blog is just to provide factual, reliable and accurate information to potential expatriates planning to work in Saudi Arabia, which is what makes it so popular.

Working in Saudi Arabia is a challenge, no doubt, but it is purely up to you to make your world lovable. In certain ways, all of us are kind of mercenaries, working for money. So, love for your job is the last thing which should come to your mind. You are hired here because you are needed here, not because someone adores you. The day you are perceived as of no use to your sponsor, you are out of this place, so you must be ready to accept this fact. Love your work, not your job, and don't complain, because it's of no use anyway. Realize that every day you spend here is a day you have earned money, but that doesn't mean that it will be perpetual, because the only thing certain in Saudi Arabia is uncertainty!