Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Can't settle down in Saudi Arabia?

I have been repeatedly emphasizing in various posts in the past about the importance of your contract (click here). I would now like to highlight certain important points for expatriates who want to return home within a short period after arrival.

The first three months of stay are the most crucial ones for any expatriate working in Saudi Arabia. This is the most testing period because, this is the time which gives an expat the opportunity to know the reality of the job and the new environment. The honeymoon would be over and suddenly he/she is exposed to the good, bad and ugly. Sadly, some of them are unable to adjust themselves to the new environment. It is easy to brush this aside as home sickness, but in a few cases, unfortunately the reasons for not being able to adjust is very genuine.

One of the prime reasons why an expat would like to leave within a short period, is the lack of belongingness. In other words, there is a huge gap between what was expected / promised and what was actually delivered. I know a specific case where the owner of a gas station did not allow his employees to go on vacation even after completing three years of service, because there was no replacement. Another sponsor wanted a fellow employee to be guarantor to release an employee, a gross violation of the law as well as human rights. A third case involved a sponsor not paying the first two months salary - to be kept as a deposit in case an employee did not return after vacation. I believe this amount was paid only after the employee returned.

In most cases, employees are just too scared to even complain because the passport is with the sponsor and without his consent, they are just jailbirds.

Now let's see what the law says if an employee would like to return. Article 40(1) of the Saudi Labor Law says that it is the responsibility of the employer to bear all recruiting fees such as Iqama, work permit, change of profession, exit/re-entry visa and the return tickets to the worker's home country "at the end of the relation between the two parties". Note, the labor law does not say "at the end of the contract". So, technically if a person resigns at any point of time, that is the end of the relationship, which also means that the employer has to bear the return ticket of the employee. Right? Not exactly.

Now let's move on to Article 40(2). It says that a worker shall incur the costs of returning to his home country "if he is unfit for work or if he wishes to return to his home country without a legitimate reason". What is "legitimate", is not defined. Why would anyone want to return to his own country without a legitimate reason? But this is not the point. Read this sentence carefully once more. The law says that the worker shall incur "the costs of returning to his home country". Which means that he pays for his one way ticket back home. He need not pay for any of the other costs incurred by his employer. Or at least that is what the law says.

But in reality is this the case? Any person wanting to leave against his sponsor's wishes is really asking for trouble. In almost all cases, it is common for the sponsor to make the employee pay for all the expenses incurred by him, including all recruiting costs.  Either you pay up or you don't leave the Kingdom of Humanity.

So, what is the practical way out of the situation? I cannot think of any other way, other than patiently waiting for your vacation time. There is simply no point in grumbling once you have arrived, because you are only going to hurt yourself emotionally.

I keep getting queries from people so desparate to come to the kingdom at any cost and do whatever kind of job they can get their hands on - just any kind of job. All they want is a job in Saudi Arabia, whatever it might be. My request to such people is: Please, don't get desparate. The oil boom has long ended and unemployment in the kingdom is a reality. So, if you really don't get a good offer, do not come. This would be good for you as well as for other expatriates already here. Working in Saudi Arabia is no longer a luxury. People do sweat it out for every Riyal they make, so have no assumptions that money is made easily here.


Shaiku said...

Working in Saudi Arabia is no longer a luxury. People do sweat it out for every Riyal they make, so have no assumptions that money is made easily here.

How True...Every word of the blog

Anonymous said...

Hey ExpatGuru, great to see your blog active again (for you stopped updating for when you wrote your own departure post from KSA).

Your blog is a great source of knowledge for all Expats because in a country where no procedure is defined, and whatever is defined then every officer has his own interpretation with sole discretion to say "no" or "yes" to anything he pleases that too WITHOUT any right of appeal to the affected. Given all these ambiguities, your blog shines as the only source of guidance to us.

Let me share my story about willing to leave KSA against the will of company's GM.

I was hired by them 15 months ago and when my patience ran out, I resigned considering I am better of as a jobless than being mentally tortured and humiliated. Company charged me back all costs they incurred, company did not also gave me air tickets to return and until now, they took my Iqama in the name of "cancellation (or final exit)" and despite of two months being passed I neither have my final exit or Iqama nor a clear picture that what do they really want from me?

Going daily to HR manager is itself a mission failed when you hear "Insha Allah" without any sign of shame on this guy. Although HR manager claims he is a Muslim but I am sure that Islam has not even touched his soul even slightly.

In the end, I have referred my case to the only court I can afford and that court is owned, operated and run by "God" with a hope that if not in this world, I will get justice in the world hereinafter.

Anonymous said...

Hi ExpatGuru,

What do you have to say about miseries like this expat:


He wasted nearly 20 years of his life despite of the fact that he has orders supporting him from the Governorate.

Does it mean that even the Governor cannot help an expat if Kafeel becomes nasty?

I have heard there was some ways to get Iqama renewed and final exit being stamped from outside (you know what I mean). Is it reasonable risk to take considering a man does not want to waste 20 or 10 years of his life?


Expatguru said...

What can I say? I am at a loss of words and the reality is that this is just one case which has come up. There are scores of other expats who are still suffering in silence in the hands of such tyrants. What this man should have done is to highlight this in the local press, as he has done now.

I do not know whether he contacted his embassy. There are several ways to get out, as you rightly observed. All he had to do was to get in touch with the right channel after identifying it.