Thursday, May 14, 2009

Swan song

It has been exactly 2 years since I started this blog. Having undergone the pain of running around from pillar to post for information, I realized that all other fellow-expatriates like me were facing the same predicament as I was. That was when the idea of documenting all my experiences as well as doing my bit to help fellow-expats, came to my mind.
I started off this blog just as a hobby, and as a policy, I have never charged anyone a single penny for guiding people. The good feeling which I got at the end of the day, more than made up for the time I spent on this blog. From just 2 to 3 hits a day, this blog has reached about 50 hits an hour. My Inbox is being flooded with requests from expatriates almost everyday and it has become a herculean task to handle it. I have a full-time job and devoting time for this blog has now become extremely difficult.
I have now decided to stop taking any more queries. Of course, I will not shut down this blog as the information here is too precious to be lost. This blog will continue to be there perpetually, as long as Blogspot - the webhost - allows it. For those requiring personalized guidance, I am ready to offer my service for a nominal fee. The idea is not to make money, but to filter and choose only those very important queries which are genuine and does need an answer. Almost every single topic which an expatriate working in Saudi Arabia needs to know has been covered in this blog, and if there are families being united, people getting their dues from their sponsors, expats in trouble getting some help out, then the purpose of this blog has been served.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Useful phone numbers

Working in Saudi Arabia is a challenge. More so when expatriates do not know whom to contact and how to contact for information. This blog was started primarily to fill that gap and its growing popularity by the day is proof of how badly information is needed in this country.

Things aren't that bad now as what it was 12 years back, when I first landed in Saudi Arabia. International calls were at a whopping SR13.50 per minute and one had to pay SR10000 deposit for a mobile connection from the only phone company at that time, PTT! How times have changed!

Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has now offered some services for providing you information by sms in your mobile phones. I have listed a few of them below for the benefit of all expatriates in the kingdom. Note that all calls cost SR1.50.

If you want to know whether your name in English as entered in your passport has been correctly entered in the system (so important, to avoid problems in immigration when you go on vacation), to know the expiry date of your passport and your dependents' passports or to know whether your newly renewed passport has been updated in the system, do the following.

Type then 13 then* then iqama number then * then the expiry date of your iqama in the format yyyy-mm-dd and send the information to 88909. For example,

13*Iqama number*1431-10-15

Sometimes, you apply for an exit/reentry visa and then due to some unavoidable reasons are not able to travel within the stipulated time. If you do not cancel the exit/reentry visa, you will have to pay a fine of SR1000 (what a 'fine' way of collecting money for a service you did not use!). You also want to know the deadline before which you must depart and the deadline before which you must re-enter after going out of the kingdom. For all of these, do the following:

Type 11 then * then Iqama number then * then Visa number and send the information to 88909. Note that the visa number is what is mentioned in the exit/reentry visa which is stamped in your passport. For example,

11*Iqama number*Visa number

It has now become mandatory for all sponsors to provide health insurance to their employees. Only then can the employee even go on vacation or on exit as the visa would not be stamped on the passport (How unfair, punishing the employee for a sponsor's mistake!). If you want to know whether your sponsor has actually taken your health insurance or not, just type 10 then * then Iqama number and send the information to 88988. For example,

10*Iqama number

I have been very frequently getting requests from fellow expats on the profession mentioned in the iqama. If you want to know your actual iqama profession or the date of iqama expiry of yourself and your dependents or to know the latest transfer fees or to know how many times your sponsorship was transferred, just do the following. Type 12 then * then sponsor ID then * then Iqama number and send the information to 88909. Note that you MUST get the ID number of your sponsor for this. However, this is quite a delicate and awkward situation and you must tactfully get this information somehow from the sponsor, to use this service. People usually are quite fussy about giving such information. For example,

12*Sponsor ID number*Iqama number

Finally, if you want to follow up regarding your Haj permit, just type 30 then * then iqama number and send the information to 88988. For example,

30*iqama number

Hope the above information was useful to you. Just my small attempt to make our lives a bit more easier!