Monday, August 26, 2013

Exit / Re-entry visa - Always carry a printout

The Ministry of Interior today announced that starting from September 7, 2013 it is no longer necessary to carry the hard copy of the exit / reentry visa.

According to the Ministry, all details are already available in their website and that itself is adequate to verify the details of exit / re-entry or exit visas. The statement brags about the Passport General Directorate's "keenness to further ease travel procedures and boost e-services". The reality is far from it.

Once this rule is implemented, probably the guys at the airports in the kingdom may not insist on the hard copy. But you are going to face a tough time on your return journey, if you do not carry a printout of the exit / re-entry visa. It is common knowledge that airlines around the world check for a valid visa before even issuing the boarding card. Unless you have the hard copy of the exit / re-entry visa, it is impossible for the airline to know whether you have a valid visa for re-entering or not. Do not expect the staff at the airline counter to browse the internet and look for your visa validity. 

The problem is not just with exit / re-entry, but also with exit-only visas. I would like to draw the attention of readers of my earlier article (click here) wherein I had advised all those leaving on final exit visas to carry a copy of the exit paper. In fact, I would advise such people to carry two copies, just in case the guy at the immigration does not return the exit paper. This is because, if you decide to return to Saudi Arabia at a later date, you will need physical proof, i.e., hard copy of the exit visa for you to return. Without this, the new visa will not be stamped on your passport.

Announcements such as this is  not what expatriates working in Saudi Arabia want. Let the Government announce the total abolition of exit / re-entry visa. That is real reform. Anything other than this is only superficial. It is like saying "I will continue to whip you, but now the whip will have a plastic handle so don't complain"!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Revised attestation procedure for Indians

In one of the earliest articles of this blog, I had written about the detailed attestation procedure for Indian nationals seeking job opportunities in Saudi Arabia.

A lot of changes have taken place in the past six years since I wrote that article. Though the comments section in that particular article (click here) was updated and enriched periodically by other expats, I have been getting frequent requests in recent times for an updated piece on the same. As a policy, I never publish anything in this blog unless I personally verify the same. This time, I decided to make an exception.

One of the readers had asked certain queries about the attestation process. I normally recommend doing this through agents wherever required, because it saves a lot of time, energy and money, even though you could do it yourself. This reader went on to get his certificates attested through friends in India and sent me his experiences. He specifically requested that he wanted to be anonymous and with due respect to his sentiments, I take pleasure in sharing it here for the benefit of other Indians planning to work in Saudi Arabia.

When I had written the original article in 2007 (click here) , once the HRD attestation process was over, one had to personally go to New Delhi to get the remaining attestation done by the Ministry of External Affairs. The rule changed subsequently as can be seen from the large number of comments (click here) to that article. But more importantly, the most time-consuming procedure, which is by HRD, has now been delegated to the  state administrative departments of the respective Governments from the state where you completed your degree / diploma. The reader in question completed the same from Karnataka.

One of the most significant changes from the earlier procedure (click here) is that the Ministry of External Affairs has identified a list of Regional Authentication Centres (click here) who will be doing the HRD attestation - just scroll down in this link till you find "Regional Authentication Centres", which will give you the names of officers responsible in various states for attesting your certificate. As a first step, give your original certificate and mark sheets to the officer mentioned in the above link or his delegated case worker. Pay the required fees in the treasury and give these documents to him. He will then prepare a verification letter in a standard format addressed to the Registrar of the University where you completed your degree/ diploma. Take photocopies of your certificate / mark sheets along with this verification letter to your University.

Pay the required fees in the University and submit these documents to the Registrar. Now comes the most time-consuming part. The Registrar will verify your documents and directly send his reply by Speed Post to the case worker. This usually takes about 2 weeks if you continuously follow up, but again this depends totally on your luck. When the case worker gets the reply from the Registrar, he will prepare the file for attestation of your original certificate by the Regional Commissioner or the authorized official mentioned in the link above. Once he does the attestation, the first part of the process is now complete.

The next step is attestation by the Ministry of External Affairs. MEA has now outsourced this process to various agencies and also in some major cities. You need not go to Delhi and can get it done locally if you are in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata or Guwahati. If you are not in any of these cities, you can get it done in Delhi through any of the agents. All details are mentioned in the link mentioned above. This process takes only a day or two.

Attestation by the Saudi Cultural Attache is the next step. In a deviation from the procedure mentioned in my earlier article (click here), this is a new requirement and the entire procedure is listed in this link. Please also note that you cannot directly approach Saudi Cultural Attache and there are authorized agents to do this. A mandatory requirement is that your original work contract has to be attested by the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These two attestations will be taken care of by the sponsor and he will send you the original contract attested by these two agencies. You will have to hand over this certificate to the authorized agent of of the Saudi Cultural Attache mentioned above along with your original certificate which was already attested by the Ministry of External Affairs.

As a final step, the authorized agent will now require a letter from your University stating that your certificate is genuine. Even though this is a duplication of the attestation process, this is what the procedure requires, so you have to follow the same. The agent will send the prescribed fees by Demand Draft and write to the Registrar of the University. The Registrar will then directly reply to the agent.

Once all these steps are completed, the Saudi cultural Attache will then attest the certificate and give it to the authorized agent. This completes the process.

The entire procedure is rather cumbersome and the system has been tailor-made to make it as customer-unfriendly as possible. The reader who sent me his experiences had to grease several palms and continuously follow up before getting his work done. I would never recommend anyone to try this without an agent. At the end of the day, you end up with a hole in your pocket and a lot of heartburn. As I had already mentioned in my earlier article, it is best to give the whole job to one agent as a turnkey job and be done with it. This way, you just spend money (which you have to anyway), but at least it saves you the botheration of running around.

Trust you found this information useful.