Saturday, July 14, 2012

Procedure for Police Clearance in Saudi Arabia

A lot of readers working in Saudi Arabia have been asking me about the procedure for obtaining police clearance, so I decided to write a separate post on the same.

Before I begin, let me explain who really requires a police clearance and who doesn't. Readers might recall my earlier post giving the final exit procedure (click here). As long as you are within the kingdom, you do not need this certificate. But if you are leaving Saudi Arabia on final exit and plan to migrate anywhere in Europe, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, you will definitely need this. If you have no such plans, don't even bother to waste your time and money on this. Why is it that specifically only these countries require this certificate? It is because, it is one of the requirements for entry / residence in these places.

Again, the procedure is different if you want police clearance while you are still in the kingdom and if you apply for one after you leave. If you are still within Saudi Arabia, the procedure is easier.

The first step is to apply for a Letter of Endorsement to your embassy. All embassies have standard forms for this. Fill in the form, pay the fees along with copies of your iqama and passport and submit to your embassy. Again, the time for processing this depends on your embassy. For example, in case of Indian embassy, if your current passport was issued within the last one year, it takes a few weeks as they have to verify with the previous passport issuing authority.

Once you receive this letter, you will have to attach copies of your current passport and iqama along with a form available in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Always do this with the PRO of your company. You will have to pay SR100 as fees.  If you try to approach MOFA yourself, in all likelihood you may not be entertained.

Once you receive the endorsement from MOFA, the entire set of documents have to be submitted to the police for their clearance. Again, do all this with the help of your Saudi PRO. That's it. Of course I presume that you have by now completed your finger printing otherwise you will have to go personally to the Criminal Investigation Department along with your PRO and give your finger prints.

The procedure for obtaining police clearance once you leave Saudi Arabia is a bit more complicated, time consuming and expensive. What is not complicated in the kingdom, I am talking about relative terms!

A new procedure has come into effect from 3rd November, 2010 (Circular # 94/70/19/373270 issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs). First of all, you will have to do all of this through your friends / relatives / contacts in the kingdom. Of course, this is a pain, but there is no other choice. You will have to write a letter to your embassy stating that you require a PCC and that you are authorizing your friend in the kingdom to collect it on your behalf. You must attach two recent color photographs, copies of your iqama and passport while you were in the kingdom and the relevant fees. Approach the Saudi embassy in your country and obtain the police clearance certificate form. Fill this in. Next, go to the state police where you currently reside and obtain the finger printing card from them. You must then translate the contents of this card into Arabic and get it attested by the Saudi embassy in your country.

Wait, you are still not done yet. Approach your former employer and get a certificate of employment or a No objection certificate or a release letter (Photocopy of any one of these three is acceptable). But this letter must be in Arabic (of course!). Attach two recent color photographs along with copies of your iqama while you were in the kingdom and also the passorts used while you were in the kingdom. In case you used multiple passports (i.e., if your passport had expired and you obtained a new passport while you were in Saudi Arabia), you must necessarily attach photocopies of all your passports with all the pages where there was an exit / reentry visa issued. So, if you were in the kingdom for say, 10 years, and you made 20 trips outside the kingdom during this period, photocopies of all the 20 exit/reentry visas must be attached. I would advise you to take photocopies of the whole passport.

The rest of the procedure is the same, i.e., applying to your country's embassy in the kingdom for endorsement, followed by endorsement from MOFA and then finally from the police.

My earlier post (click here) did not cover this important piece of information, because it was not mandatory.  However, I would strongly urge all expatriates planning for final exit to get this certificate before leaving because you never know when you would need it. Currently, only certain western countries require this, but who knows if this gets extended to other countries in future.

Hope you found  this post useful.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Housing in Saudi Arabia

One of the frequently asked questions by expatriates planning to work in Saudi Arabia is the cost of housing. Indeed, barring a few sponsors, most employers prefer giving an allowance rather than accommodation to their employees who are then left to fend for themselves.

You always need to sign a contract with the apartment owner or his authorized agent before you officially become a tenant. There are a few things you need to know before you move in.

Please note that the housing contract is independent of the contract between you and your employer. House rents in Saudi Arabia are always paid in advance by cash and are paid either annually or once every six months. A few owners also take quaterly payments. If you pay the whole year's rent in advance, there would usually be a slight discount in the rate as compared to six monthly rent. There is a brokerage to be paid and also a security deposit.

Probably the worst part of housing contracts in Saudi Arabia is that they are totally one-sided in favor of the house owners. If you do not like the apartment and would like to vacate, your money for the rest of the unutilized period would not be refunded. In return, the house owner is not allowed to increase the rent until the end of the contract. Some big favor! The only exception is when you leave the kingdom on final exit. But this too is totally dependent on the whims and fancies of the owner.

In order to get back the amount from the owner for the unutilized part, most expatriates staying in apartments usually find other expats who are willing to come in as their replacement and get the money from them for the rest of the contract period. However, in any case it is advisable to transfer your name to the new tenant, otherwise you would be liable to pay for any damages caused by the new tenant if your name is still on the records.

Maintenance is something you should stop expecting from apartment owners. Many contracts have specific clauses regarding maintenance but they are very rarely honored. Before you move into any apartment, make sure that nothing is in damaged condition. Also, ensure that the house is white washed and in good livable condition, otherwise you would be forced to pay for it when you vacate. Most important, ensure that all electricity bills have been paid by the previous tenant.

A few years back, one could easily get a decent 2-bedroom house for SR12,000 / year. Those days are long gone. It costs anywhere between 22000 to 25000 / year on an average. Of course, this is a thumb rule figure and it depends on the city / locality where you stay.

Western expatriates usually prefer to stay in compounds where some limited amount of freedom is available. Within the walls of such compounds, it is not compulsory for women to wear the abaya. Also, such compounds come fully furnished. You should get a villa for about SR 60 to 70000 / year on an average. Most compounds come with swimming pools and invariably have high security.

For those planning to work in the kingdom, please consider these points while negotiating with your employer, otherwise you would end up with a hole in your pocket.