The changes announced by the Passport Department to the rules governing family visit visa are small, but significant.
This blog has been keenly observing this since beginning and has been recording the same here (Click here for the procedure to apply for a family visit visa). The changes announced periodically have also been recorded here (click on this link).
For those who were unable to bring their families on a permanent visa, the best and only option available was a family visit visa. Irrespective of one's visa profession, authorities were quite liberal in granting this visa. Until recently, the validity of visit visa was 9 months, which inexplicably was reduced to 6 months, much to the annoyance of expatriates working in Saudi Arabia. It was an unwritten rule that starting from beginning of Ramadan to the end of Hajj holidays, no visit visas were issued to Muslim applicants. No such restriction was there for non-Muslims. This was due to the absolutely illogical fear that Muslims would come on a visit visa, perform Umrah and continue to stay back. But then, you don't speak logic when it comes to rules and regulations in paradise, right?
Now, it has come straight from the horse's mouth. The passport department has announced that there would be no stoppage of issuing visit visas and they would be issued throughout the year. Finally, a positive step. But then, one step forward and two steps backwards. Here comes the 'fine' print. As already mentioned in my earlier post (click here), it was totally up to the mood of the guy stamping the visa whether to offer your family a one-month visit visa or a 3-month visit visa or anything inbetween. The saving grace was that at the time of renewal, one could go and personally meet the captain to request him for an extension of 3 months, a procedure which usually works. After all, human ego needs to be pampered, isn't it? All that is going to change now.
The passport department has announced that if your original visit visa was issued for 1 month, the renewal also would be only for 1 month. If it was issued for 3 months, the renewal also would be for 3 months. How much more stupid can the rules get?
Also, the fines have been quietly raised. Earlier, it used to be SR10,000 for those who overstay. This has now increased to SR15,000 plus deportation for the first offence. The funny part is, as per the new rules, the fine is SR25,000 plus 3 months' jail followed by deportation if the offence is repeated for the second time and SR50,000 plus 6 months' jail followed by deportation if the offence is repeated for the third time. Nobody even thought about a simple fact: how could someone repeat an offence a second and third time, when he has already been deported after the first offence? For those expats who have recently come to the kingdom, don't be surprised, you would get used to such jokes very soon :)