The recently refurbished e-portal of the Ministry of Interior has thrown up some pleasant surprises. From the context of expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, this is a welcome change.
To begin with, the portal has an English translation, finally a recognition of the huge expat population in the kingdom. I am reminded of the late nineties and early 2000's when there was not even internet facility here, and one had to browse the net via servers based in Bahrain. One had to pay up to SR 25 per hour in a net cafe and that too for a dial-up connection those days. It has taken so long to change, which is itself quite a reform in relative terms.
First the positives. You can now know the status of your exit / re-entry visa by clicking on this link. All you need to do is just enter the details to get the status. However, the downside is that you need to also know your sponsor's ID number, which might be rather difficult to obtain. Chances are that the sponsor might be unwilling to give the same, particularly to his own expat employee whom he has sponsored! My preference is for this link, in another website, which is independent of your sponsor's ID details and also gives you the option to print your exit/re-entry visa from anywhere in the world in case you happen to lose the same.
The MOI website also has an option for those wanting to know about their iqama expiry date. This is by using this link. I am not sure about the usefulness of this, when you can actually see your expiry date in your iqama. Just use the date conversion link given on the right side column in this blog to see the equivalent Gregorian date.
There is also a link to see if you have any fines pending because of traffic violations, which could be extremely useful before you go on vacation or on final exit. The portal also gives information on the validity of your car insurance through this link. Interestingly, there is also a link where you can file objections to traffic violations but I guess this is applicable more in case of accidents involving a Saudi versus another Saudi. You never get to win if it is an expat versus Saudi. Never ever. Believe me, I have first-hand experience of this (click here to read about it). Since you cannot change the system, you have to just accept it and move on.
Now for the negatives. Apart from the above, I do not see any other link which is beneficial and can be used by expats in this portal. They are all for the Saudis and by the Saudis. For example, we all know the problem where expats are not issued their Iqamas even up to three months after their first arrival. I was initially excited when I saw the link to know the status of such cases in the MOI website, only to be let down as usual, because you need to not only enter the sponsor's ID number, but also his date of birth in the fields, to know the status! And the portal says that this is an e-service for citizens and residents. Some service!
The portal by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a big let down when compared to the MOI website. There is an automatic translation of the website which is machine-generated and is absolute nonsense. For example, when you want to know more details about attestation services, it gives a long list of gibberish. I would like to end this post on a rather amusing disclaimer in the MOFA website: "The Ministry.....has reservations about the ratification of any document contrary to.....regulations in force in the kingdom". That's precisely the point. No one knows what those regulations are and which one of those are in force in the kingdom!