Western expats in Saudi made to pay for oil price crash

Published:  7 Sep at 6 PM
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Foreign professionals working in Saudi Arabia already bearing the brunt of the soaring cost of living will now be forced to pay more for their visas, work permits and residency visas.

Due to the dramatic fall in oil prices, the Saudi government’s budget is disappearing down a massive black hole of about $98 million. It seems the chosen way to claw back at least some cash without hurting its own citizens is to charge all foreigners more for the same services as before.

The increases are to apply to all visas issued to foreigners, whether they are tourists, workers, Muslims on pilgrimage or those applying for residency visas. Only two groups will be allowed exemption from the price rises – first time pilgrims and arrivals from countries with which a bilateral visa agreement has been made.

Expats working in the kingdom already suffering from increased day-to-day living expenses will be hit, along with those arriving to take up new positions as well as their employers. Once the new tariffs are in place, a single entry visa will cost £398, and six-month multiple entry visas will rise to £596. Annual visas are due to cost £995 and two-year visas will be charged at £1590.

In addition, all expats will be charged £40 to leave the country, with another £40 due on any return within two months of leaving. Longer stays outside Saudi Arabia will be charged at £20 per month, with the amount added to the cost of the visa itself. The increases are being seen as yet another attempt to bring in total Saudization of the workforce, and the new visa fees will become effective as from 2 October.

The Saudi government is also seeking to ensure the 12 per cent of Saudis who are unemployed have the opportunity to find work, thus reducing the kingdom’s reliance on expat workers. A new government website includes a demand that all employers in the country advertise their manpower needs to Saudi citizens before opening them to foreign workers.

Companies must now apply for visas for new expat employees via the Saudi embassy or consulate in the employee’s home country. The entire process can take up to four months before a visa is issued, and the employee is not allowed entry to the kingdom until a visa has been issued.
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