Expatriates working in Saudi Arabia need to keep a close tab on the expiry dates of their passports and iqamas. In fact, I would advise everyone to keep a personal diary of expiry dates, from istemara to driving license, from passport to iqama, from car insurance to company ID to ATM card. In fact, the wallet of an expat working in Saudi contains more paper than notes! Remember, when dealing with government agencies, all the dates pertain to Hijri calendar, not Gregorian calendar. I had mentioned in my earlier post (click here to read it) about the importance of Hijri dates and the tool to convert from one to the other (click here).
One of my colleagues recently landed up into quite a mess, which prompted me to write this post. Most embassies allow renewal of their citizens' passports upto one year before the expiry date. I would strongly urge all expats in Saudi Arabia to renew their passports much before the deadline, to avoid unnecessary trouble. Read on, to know why. There are also cases where there are less than 4 pages available in the passport. In either case, renewal of your passport on time is extremely important.
Some embassies such as the Indian Embassy in Riyadh offer the so-called "Jumbo" passports as an option. This costs slightly more, as it has more number of pages. If you are one among those frequently going on weekend trips or business trips outside the kingdom, then this is the one to go for. Some countries do not stamp their visas if your passport contains less than 2 "clean" pages, i.e., without any stamp whatsoever. For example, the Malaysian Embassy in Riyadh wants atleast 2 "consecutive" clean pages, on the left and the right, (not back to back) without any stamp, if you need their visa. I still do not understand the logic behind this, but when dealing with government agencies, you don't talk logic, you just follow their rules!
It is not adequate if you just renew your passport or simply take an additional booklet. In both these cases, the change has to be entered in your iqama. This is the most important part of the whole process, because failure to do so would land yourself in trouble when you go on vacation. What I mean is, you may be having a passport which is up to date and renewed, but if the details are not entered in the system, believe me you are really in for some shock, like my colleague.
Once you renew your passport or take an additional booklet, you MUST submit both the old and the new passports along with your iqama to the Saudi Passport Office (Jawasat). Usually, the information gets transferred in 2 weeks time (excluding Ramadan and Hajj season). The trouble is when your iqama is also about to expire during that period. Remember, the moment you give your iqama for renewal, all exit/reentry visas, including multiple visas stamped on your passport get automatically cancelled. The renewal of the iqama should normally be over in 2 weeks time, but why take the risk by procrastinating? This is why I would advise you not to wait until the last moment to renew your passport.
Always make it a habit to return to the kingdom always a couple of days prior to the expiry of your re-entry visa. If you don't, your visa gets cancelled and it is quite a long process to revive it (click here for the same). Why even ask for trouble when you can really avoid it? Afterall, all of us are here for money, so make your stay here comfortable by renewing your papers on time.
Oh, by the way, if you have submitted your papers for transfer of information to your Government Relations Officer (Mandub), how do you find out whether the transfer has really happened or not? Remember, there is no link or website nor is there any information till you reach the airport. Well, I just discovered this indirect way and want to share it with you. If you or any of your friend has an account with Al Rajhi bank, just login to the bank's website, enter your iqama number and apply for an exit/re-entry visa. If the data has already been transferred, it will ask you to confirm. Don't confirm, just log out. If the data has not been transferred, it will give out a vague message such as "the person is not present in the kingdom". If you get such a message, make sure that your passport details are updated in the system. Hope this post was helpful.