Saturday, January 18, 2014

Now, surrender your Iqamas well before exit

There is a very important announcement made this week by the Department of Immigration regarding surrender of Iqamas by expatriates working in Saudi Arabia.

I would like to remind readers of my earlier post (click here) wherein I had mentioned about the various points expats must keep in mind before proceeding on exit. The latest development is that your Iqama must be surrendered to the Passport office much earlier than your actual final departure. The current practice of surrendering the Iqama at the airport has been stopped. The Department of Immigration has announced that it is not enough if you just have an exit visa. It is also necessary for your sponsor to surrender your original Iqama. In fact, they have made it amply clear that the system must show that the Iqama has been surrendered before an expat would be allowed to leave the kingdom.

I have already updated my earlier post (click here) which has of course, been blatantly copied word by word by innumerable other websites without even having the basic courtesy of asking my permission. Plagiarism of one's work is even worse than stealing someone's property. Thankfully, readers are smart enough to know the original source. 

This apart, the announcement by the Immigration Department has taken everyone by surprise. Why not give time and notice to expatriates about this all-important decision? Scores of expats who already had exit visas issued and had checked in their luggage at the airport had to return disappointed when told of this new rule which had been implemented so abruptly. How upsetting it would be for a person, who is about to board a plane back home, only to be told about changes in a rule which they were not even informed or aware of? But then, the Kingdom of Humanity cares two hoots about such sentiments. 

What is worrisome is that expats have no clue of whether it has been recorded in the "system" that the Iqama has been surrendered, as required by the Department of Immigration. All he does is simply give his Iqama to his sponsor in the hope that he would surrender it to the Passport Office. The only way he would know is when he actually gets across the immigration without any problem. Tension until the very last moment, indeed. What a relief it would be for expats, when they are finally out of paradise! 

The best an expat can do under such circumstances, is to take a photocopy of the Iqama and get his sponsor's stamp and signature on it. This would be an extremely important document to show at police check posts and would be proof that the expat has done his part in giving his Iqama to his sponsor. In a similar way, also take photocopies of the documents after selling your car to ensure that the sale has been recorded in the system. I would even go a step further and advise expats to get a photocopy of the buyer's Istemara to show at the airport. Remember, if the computer system does not show in its records, you had it. Do pass on this information to all your friends who are planning to go on exit.

Update as on 18th February, 2014:

Going by the feedback received from people who left on exit in the past two weeks, it appears that this rule has been quietly withdrawn. As usual, no announcements, no information, nothing - so typical of working in Saudi Arabia. The first lot of people who were sent back from the airport must be seething with revulsion when they hear this news. But then, as this blog always used to reiterate, the only thing certain in the kingdom is uncertainty.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Comedy of errors

Long-time expats working in Saudi Arabia have now seasoned themselves to have a good sense of humor. What else can you say after today's proposal which is under study by the Ministry of Labor, to restrict expats from staying more than 8 years and discouraging them to bring their families? But before that, a word about two important developments within the past week.
This blog has highlighted several times in the past on the futility of impractical schemes and the way policies have been diluted (click here). A classic example was the case of female teachers. No sooner had I written this post (click here) was the announcement by the Ministry of Labor that it was absolutely necessary for all female teachers to transfer their sponsorships to their institutions. I even wondered whether someone over there was actually reading this blog and wanted to disprove it! One of the readers even commented about it. Now who would expect such a flip-flop in such a short duration? But then, this is the Kingdom of Humanity where the only thing certain is uncertainty. As expected, female teachers under their spouses' sponsorships simply stopped going to school. And predictably, there was one more dilution saying that female teachers now have time up to one year to do this. As I said, the policy is to somehow get rid of the heat for the time being until pressure builds up at a later date! Hot potato, isn't it?
The other announcement was that the grace period for 'illegal' expats working in Saudi Arabia has been extended by another two months. What a great climbdown after all the noises we heard about no further extensions. Oh come on, who do you suppose would do your laundry, clean your garbage, lay roads and do all the dirty work?
Now coming back to today's "proposal" to restrict the stay of expats to 8 years and to discourage them to bring their families. We have seen this regular rhetoric about "billions of riyals" draining out of the kingdom by expats. Now since the root cause of all problems in this country is only expats, just kick them out and discourage them to bring their families. Problem solved! Please, give us a break. Expats aren't dying to come here, leave alone their families. The world is a big place and a changing one. The days of oil boom are long over. And by the way, talking of hypocrisy, in something totally unrelated, there was this grand announcement of a deal to bring in domestic helps from India. Wake up, there isn't really a queue in India or anywhere else for that matter. Those days are long gone.
Such flip-flops and rhetorics have now become so common that if in doubt, just re-read the first sentence of this post. I guess such announcements do give a comical relief at regular intervals, in an otherwise gloomy environment.