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.

46 comments:

Tom Fletcher said...

Great post, Expatguru!

TCN said...

It is impossible to surrender your Iqamas early which is neither practical too for the reason you need Iqama for completing all bank transactions for EOB. Instead, plan your exit by giving sufficient time after surrendering your Iqama. Example: If your last working day is 31 Mar 2014 (by this date you are expected complete all bank transactions related to EOB), plan for the exit (travel date) after 3 to 4 days the last working day.

So, the title needs to be plan your exit travel well after your Iqama Surrender date. (And of course, you will get a letter at the time of surrendering your Iqama)

Expatguru said...

TCN,

It is not impossible to surrender your Iqama early. This routinely happens whenever you go on vacation on exit/re-entry. But it is certainly inconvenient. As you have rightly pointed out, you must complete all your bank work, sell your car, etc., before surrendering your Iqama. Once you return your Iqama to your sponsor, you will definitely have to keep a photocopy of the same with your sponsor's stamp on it. This is the only document which proves that you are still a legal resident. Remember, when you first came to the kingdom, you had to give your passport to your sponsor who in turn gave you a photocopy of the same with his stamp? That piece of paper was your temporary proof till you got your original Iqama. The same logic applies here. Till you leave the kingdom, you MUST have this photocopy.

You will not get any letter while surrendering your Iqama. In any case, it will be your sponsor who will be surrendering the Iqama to the passport department and you are not at all in the picture.

Carlos Morais said...

Very good information. Thanks. Shared in FaceBook group with link to this site. ;-)

Kairel said...

Thanks for the info.
Today I checked with company GR and they have no idea about this new requirement.
Do you have any other information such as goverment website regards to this message.

Expatguru said...

Kairel,

I am not at all surprised because this decision was implemented so suddenly. Please check Arab News newspaper of 18th January. This is the top headlines of that day.

Please also take a look at the advisory issued by the Consulate General of India in the link below (see item 3):

http://cgijeddah.mkcl.org/downloads/revadvisory.pdf

Ajay said...

My fiancee is on final exit visa but her manager refuses to believe that he must surrender her iqama to the passport office beforehand. He will not even take it from her and tells her to surrender it at the airport. How can we make him believe it? I can't find anything official and he won't believe the arabnews story. He says no you can't believe what it says online. Any ideas?? Is there a way she can submit her iqama without going through her sponsor?

Expatguru said...

Ajay,

Sadly, it is impossible to leave without the sponsor's knowledge. The only way is to convince him somehow, otherwise your fiancee is sure to be sent back from the airport.

Jazan said...

Your Information is quite useful. I am leaving the Kingdom next week on a Final Exit Visa. Today, I called the MOI & Passport Office at Riyadh Airport. They suggested that if you have a visa issued online then you have to give the Iqama at the airport. So I am really confused. I dont know what to do! Please suggest

Expatguru said...

Jazan,

Fact is that many people have been sent back from the airport because of the implementation of this new rule. As usual, it has been implemented without giving enough notice or publicity. Had it been just a news item, I would have dismissed it as speculation, but since the Consulate General of India has issued an advisory which is available in their website, one has to take it very seriously. Obviously, embassies and consulates do not issue advisories based on newspaper reports, but on receiving factual and official information, isn't it?

I think it is better to be safe rather than be sorry. In case your PRO is not aware of the new development, better to insist upon him to surrender your iqama at the passport office and ensure that it is entered in the system.

Anonymous said...

Very good post. Thanks!

PRASAD C K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Expatguru said...

Prasad,

Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized reply by email.

Engineer said...

Dear ExpatGuru..

After reading your blog, I immediately went to my GRO today to enquire about this new rule, but they are saying that you will have to surrender your iqama at aiport immigration and not in passport office. They did not take my iqama. I m going final exit after 3 days i.e. on 30th Jan. Although my company told me very clearly that surrender your iqama at airport only, I am still confused.How can I double-check this information??

Expatguru said...

Engineer,

How can you double-check? Well, even if you triple-check, it all depends on your luck. If you get through at the airport, you are through. Or if you are sent back like so many others, it is your ill-luck. All I can say that this news item came in the public domain in the form of a newspaper clipping. It has also been issued as an advisory by the Consulate of a country who have the maximum number of expatriates in this country. Go talk to your GRO again and show him printouts of these. This is the best you can do at this point of time. Good luck!

samad said...

I am also going on exit and my company rep is saying same thing that iqama needs to be submitted at airport...

Anybody had experience recently after coming of this rule?

Expatguru said...

Samad,

Looks like there is total confusion on this issue, so typical of this country. On the one hand we have official statements and on the other hand, no one knows for sure whether the rule has been taken back quietly or still under implementation. I think we will know for sure only when many more people have left the airport without problems and give a feedback. Until then, we have to wait and watch. In any case, be prepared for the worst, if you are going on exit.

oel said...

hi,
i need advise, i've finished my contract already last january 30, 2014, im planning to take my vacation this month, but the problem is my iqama.. expired for about a year... is it possible for me to go vacation with exit/ re entry visa?.. please help..

Anonymous said...

Dear Expatguru,

I am asking here on different topic forum as i did not see my concern case comments responses there.
Dear i want to bring my wife in KSA.
I understood all requirements you mentioned there but i have little confusion as below,
1-Marriage certificate should has to be attested from Saudi consulate/embassy in my country?
2-Arabic translation of Marriage certificate done but not from KSA it done from my country is it ok?
3-From where i can get Application form for permanent visa ?
4-Do i also need photos of my wife for application?
Please guide me.
Awaiting for your reply

Regards:
Mohammad

deepak said...

Dear Guru,

My Exit-rentry visa expire on Aug-2013 & Iqama also Expire on Dec-2013,

Can you let me know either i can come in saudi with new visa or not.

and if it is possible to come with new visa and the my old sponsor can create any problem for me.

Waiting for your Quick response.

Thanks
Deepak

Anonymous said...

dear expatguru
if my iqama is not renew of my employer atleast 2 months, can i file a exit for this situation even my iqama is hold by my employer

Anonymous said...

Please update - I am leaving on 19th

Dr. R. P.

Expatguru said...

Dr. R.P.,

I am unable to independently verify whether this rule has been quietly withdrawn like so many others in the past. In the absence of people actually going on exit informing whether they were sent back at the airport or whether they did not face any problem, it would be difficult to conclude either way. At this point of time, I haven't heard anyone being sent back from the airport after the initial one week of this announcement, so I have reasons to believe that the rule has been withdrawn, though I cannot say with certainty. Please do a favour and let us know your experience once you reach home, for the benefit of others, and I will gladly publish the same.

samad said...

I left the country on final exit successfully from Jeddah airport on 7th Feb, 2014 and they have taken my iqama at the airport. Although they have not signed on my exit paper and told me that it is now not necessary to get exit paper signed as it is online now.

Expatguru said...

Samad,

Many thanks for your positive feedback. I have now got used to mindless rules being implemented recklessly only to be withdrawn quickly. I pity those who were sent back in the first batch.

Regarding your exit paper, irrespective of whether they stamp it or not, please keep a photocopy, because when you need to return for employment, the agent back home will insist on this.

Balsam Al-Hasan said...

Complete confusion.. my sponser surrendered my Iqama last tuesday at passports, they refused to issue a final exit if the Iqama is not surrendered; it wasn't possible to issue it online as I am a pharmacist, and apparently healthcare providers can't get a final exit via online services. i am leaving tomorrow with no documents other than my passport and a photocopy of my Iqama. I'll update how things go. wish me luck!
Balsam

Balsam Al-Hasan said...

Complete confusion.. my sponser surrendered my Iqama last tuesday at the passports office. The online system refused issuing a final exit for my career type (pharmacist/lecturer), and demanded physical presence (apparently this applies to all healthcare providers). I am leaving the country tomorrow without any documents other than my passport and a photocopy of my iqama. I'll update on how things go. wish me luck!

Expatguru said...

Balsam,

I can fully understand what you are undergoing. Do drop in a line on your experience for the benefit of others. All the best!

Balsam Al-Hasan said...

Hi! Sorry for the late update.. didn't get a chance to go online.. I didn't face any problems leaving. I stopped one of the guys before checking my luggage and asked him. He took my passport and checked my status in the system and said all was in order. He explained that since there had been a confusion; they now accept both options. if you surrendered your Iqama, fine, if not they take.it. if you have paper, they process it; if not , just a quick system check. so, apparently someone; finally; is learning to be a problem-solver in KSA..

Expatguru said...

Thanks, Balsam for your feedback. And good luck for your future.

Qazi said...

Hi expat guru, i was reading your blog from last two years and it really helped me to get all the basic information. I really appreciate your efforts.
Now finally i am going on final exit on 1st march. I have heard this news so i am puzzled now. Can anyone here share his experience who recently got final exit? where did he submitted his iqama? did they returned final exit paper? is it must to close bank account, internet and prepaid sim before final exit?

Anonymous said...

Do i need to renew my iqama if will go exit?

Anonymous said...

My iqama will expire this coming april 10 2014 and i will go exit do i need to renew it or just surrender to my sponsor thank you...

khan usman said...

hello expatguru my friend is working in saudi from last 7 months as a domestic helper never signed any thing other than her 3 month visa her passport being held by the employer and not paying her salary not allowing her to go out or make ph calls no food slapping in short abusing her very bad in all aspects can you guide me how she can out from that hell house i tried to search many sites but till now i am blank can you please guide me on humanity grounds or can email me at khanusmankhan@live.com i shall be very thankfull to you please

Expatguru said...

Khan Usman,

Please urgently contact her embassy with her passport details. They will guide you on the next steps to be taken.

Jepoy said...

Hi Expatguru,
I'm planing to go vacation after 1year,in my contract, I have 21 days annual vacation. What will I do if ever my employer does not allow me to go vacation? Is there any possible way for me to go vacation?because I already set my wedding on my expected vacation. Please advise.
Thaks...

Ralph Bustamante said...

Hi expat guru,

I will be having my final exit This August 2. I'm worried due to my flight schedule that is by bus from Dammam to bharain. Would the Saudi immigration allow me to exit from the causeway? Do I have to surrender my iqama at the immigration causeway or it's only allowed at the airport. Thanks

Expatguru said...

Ralph,

Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized and confidential reply by email.

ForceGuardian said...

Hi expat guru,
How can I exit the kingdom without an iqama. i have a complete exit papers, but no iqama. Thank u so much

Anonymous said...

Dear Guru,
I arrived in Kingdom lasy June 8, 2014. I have been here for almost 5 months but I still don't have Iqama. My employer kept refusing me on the date they set to undergo medical. They deducted my salary and refused to send money to my famiy. Now, I decided to get back home. I had written request already allowing me to go back. But unfortunately I still don't have Iqama. Is it possible for me to exit with just passport alone?

Expatguru said...

Anonymous,

Urgently contact your embassy for an emergency exit pasd.

Anonymous said...

Hi Expatguru.

Thanks for the great Blog.

I'm a South African citizen working in Saudi as a teacher.

I'm planning to go on vacation to Bahrain.

My employer wants me to hand in my iqama while I travel.

1) Is this legal?
Can you direct me to an official source please if it is illegal.
I know this is common practice in Saudi but after hearing about expats being turned away at GCC borders for not having an original iqama I'm worried that this might happen to me.

Many Thanks

Expatguru said...

Anonymous,

Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized and confidential reply by email.

Anonymous said...

I was here in my new company for 1 month and due to some problem to the airport immigration I'd received my passport just 2days ago, then I formaly resigned due to some reason and kafil approved my resignation even I've no iqama yet but in my previous employer 8 months ago had issued me the final exit , is it possible to issue the final exit without iqama, I'm here at ksa.

Expatguru said...

Anonymous,

Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized and confidential reply by email

Anonymous said...

Dear Expat guru,
You mentioned in the blog regarding keeping a photostat of your iquama. Is that practise legal because I know people who had instances where police had to take them to station for cross checking even though a sealed photostat of valid iquama was produced.