Saudi Arabian Expat Visas to be Capped at Six Years

The Ministry of Labor in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, gave further information yesterday about recent press reports that the iqamas of expatriates would be limited to six years in duration in the future.

Earlier in May Labor Minister Adel Fakieh revealed plans to classify private companies into three color groups according to the number of local Saudi Arabian employees that they utilized. The three categories: red, yellow and green, will be used to assess the success of the efforts of private companies to adhere to the Saudization of jobs, with companies that are failing to employ local people being placed into the red category and those that are utilizing a high number of Saudi locals being placed into the green.

Describing the classification system, which has been named the “Nitaqat” program, Minister Adel Fakieh said: “We have set out new standards to assess the employment of Saudis in private firms. We have differentiated between companies that have achieved high Saudization rates and those refusing to employ Saudis.”

“Saudization has become a national necessity rather than a choice,” he added.

Yesterday the Ministry of Labor announced further information pertaining to the rules, revealing that visa limitations would have the highest impact on companies that had been placed into the red and yellow categories.

Companies that are currently in the red category will not be permitted to renew the iqama of any foreign employees, while those operating within the yellow category will have severe limitations placed upon them.

“What Labor Minister Mr. Adel Fakieh meant by his statement was that the measure would be applied on those foreigners who work for companies in the yellow category,” said Hattab Al-Anazi, official spokesman of the ministry.

If companies in this category do not improve the levels of local employees then they will be unable to renew foreign worker’s iqamas.

“The new Nitaqat system allows renewal of iqamas without any condition for expatriates who work in companies in the green and excellent category,” Al-Anazi told the Saudi Press Agency.

In addition, companies operating within the green classification will have a number of advantages, including the ability to recruit from abroad and the right to transfer workers from within yellow and red category companies to their own company without the consent of the employer.

It is hoped that the new measures will help to reduce the unemployment levels within the local population, which currently stand at 10.5 percent.

Domestic maids and helpers will be exempt from the new restrictions, as they are not linked to the Nitaqat system.

1st June 2011: Up to date information regarding the new Saudi Arabian visa rules is available here: Saudia Arabia Expat Visa Update