Saturday, August 11, 2012

What to do if family visit visa expires

I had already mentioned in my earlier post (click here) about the procedure for bringing your family on a visit visa. Recently, I have been getting a few queries from some people who forgot to send their families before the deadline expired or who were unable to do so due to certain reasons.

Before I proceed to explain how to deal with such situations, let us first examine why these things tend to happen. I would like to caution expatriates working in Saudi Arabia that if your family who is on a visit visa does not leave the kingdom before the expiry date, you stand to face two very big risks. The first one is that there is a heavy penalty of SR10,000. Believe me, there is no mercy from the immigration authorities on this, because once it goes into the system that your family overstayed beyond the visa validity, no amount of wasta can save you. But the worst part is that, there is a bigger risk. Once your Iqama is up for renewal, the system straightaway flags your name and passport number and you will be deported upon expiry of your Iqama.

One of the main reasons why expatriates miss the deadline is the confusion between Hijri and Gregorian calendars. If your visit visa deadline is supposed to expire in 3 months, it is always 3 months as per Hijri calendar and NOT as per Gregorian calendar. Because this is so important to everyday life for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, I have specifically given the link in the right hand side of my blog. You can also view it by clicking it here.

I recently got a query from an expatriate family who had actually been to the airport for their flight back home on the last day of their visa expiry, but had to return  because the flight had got cancelled. They were in a terrible state of mental agony because, on the one hand the flight had got cancelled, but they were now illegal overstayers because their visa had got expired.

You can take comfort from the fact that in such extreme cases, there is a tolerance of 15 days given by the Saudi immigration authorities. However, please note that this is purely dependent on the mood and judgement of the officer. If, in the unfortunate event that you have indeed crossed the visa expiry deadline despite you making the best efforts, chances are that you would still be allowed to go by the next available flight without any penalty. However, you must definitely exit the kingdom by the next available opportunity.

I would like to once again stress the fact that this 15-day grace period is only in extreme cases and depends totally on the immigration officer's mood. But why to even wait until such a thing happens? Please let your family leave the kingdom at least a couple of days before the visa expiry (remember, it is the Hijri date which is counted not Gregorian date), so that they reach home safe and sound.