Expatriates working in Saudi Arabia over the years develop a 'skill' not normally present elsewhere. That is, if they hear a rumour, they believe that in all probability it must be true! Much as I try not to encourage such talk, particularly in this blog which has such a high credibility rating, it is just impossible to skip this particular one because it affects all of us.
One of my friends in Jubail recently had applied for a multiple exit/reentry visa. He followed the usual procedure - paid up SR500 through the bank and gave his application with all the required papers. His application was simply rejected without a reason. And then followed another and one more and yet another one - all of them rejected for no reason. No one would give a reason and there is no one whom you could go and approach. "Khalas" and "Yalla" are the standard replies.
It seemed very strange. So I contacted my friends in other companies and surprisingly, they too had the same story. In fact, the information I obtained was that there is an unofficial ban on issue of multiple exit / reentry visas but this is only in the eastern province. There is a small consolation though. Expats with iqama professions such as doctor, engineer, etc., as also western expatriates are exempt. I tried to read a pattern among all the friends whose cases where rejected, and this story seems to be credible.
My sources tell me that work on expansion of the Saudi-Bahrain causeway has already begun and this measure is just to avoid over-crowding the causeway! I believe that in the past 2 months, the causeway had not less than 5 major chock-o-block traffic jams, something typically seen during vacation time when people use Bahrain as a transit point to go home.
Now don't ask me for proof of this information. I can't provide you a hyperlink, certainly not for a 'rumour'. So you've got to either take it or leave it. What this shows is so typical of the drastic steps officials taken when faced with such problems. It appears to be a case of burning a house for killing a fly inside. Let me reiterate once more, that I write this particular post with abundant caution. There is no official announcement, no official press release or nothing which gives you detailed information on this. It is only through experience of fellow-expats that we really realize that something has changed suddenly.
Aren't there better ways to control the crowd in the causeway rather than creating a blanket ban on multiple visas? For example, why not provide a couple of separate counters for those having multiple visas? Why not create a rule that those having multiple visas need not undergo the process of stamping in the causeway and that they could just pass through after passing their passports under a scanner. In fact, why not have the stamping done before the bridge itself for multiple visa holders and business / frequent travellers? And finally, isn't it just plain and simple stupid to link the iqama profession with a multiple visa, given the fact that 90% of the expats don't have iqama professions matching with the actual work they are doing! Ideally, the system of exit/reentry visa itself (either single or multiple) should be done away with, but I don't see this coming so soon.
Just thought of keeping you informed. No one really knows how long this unofficial ban would last. Let's just hope that thngs return to normal soon. What do you think?