Exit-only visas at Saudi Airports not true, said Valte

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte:
On rumors of changes to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia exit visa system
[Released on July 11, 2011

There are chain e-mails going around that give some people the impression that the authorities of Saudi Arabia, in pursuit of Nitaqat or nationalization, have taken to marking the visas of foreign workers “exit only,” when previously, the visas were “exit-re-entry” visas. Saudi authorities have themselves denied that exit-re-entry visas have been switched to exit-only visas at airports. They clarified that Saudi authorities are revising their rules to apply a six-year rule for foreign workers in companies that fail to meet nationalization targets. The revised rules, however, will not affect final exit regulations as they exist.

For workers who are still under contract, an exit-re-entry visa is provided, no longer the sticker, but in paper form as records are now maintained electronically. Departing workers who have exit-re-entry visas are familiar with the procedure: they show the paper with their visa, it is checked, and the passport receives a rectangular “Exit” stamp; upon returning from vacation, the worker’s passport then receives an oval “Entry” stamp.

For those to be given a final exit visa, the regulations are clear: no employee can file for an exit unless their contract has concluded, if extended sickness benefits haven’t been given, as well as unpaid salaries and allowances. A clearance must be signed both by the worker and the employer. And these must be submitted to the Saudi Ministry of Labor for approval. The approval process requires electronic fingerprinting of the worker, and a background check to see if there are pending police or bank or credit card liabilities. Then it will be forwarded to the Jawasat for stamping as a final exit visa.

It is irresponsible to be alarmist at this point in time. As the Nitaqat rules are further clarified, the most significant development will be that the Iqama, or official identity card depicting an individual as a resident of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will become a basis for determining exit visas and not just the date of the end of contracts.

We understand that what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will apply is that the date for termination will either be the end of contract or the expiration date of the Iqama, whichever comes first. However, some companies may extend the contracts of their workers up to the date of the expiration of the Iqama, if that comes later.

This underscores what Labor Secretary Baldoz has been reassured by her Saudi counterpart: that Filipinos are a valued and welcome labor force in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and that there will be no wholesale disruptions of the labor market or mass expulsions or cancellations of contracts.

The Philippine Embassy and Consulates in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are prepared to render assistance to our fellow citizens, particularly undocumented workers. We urge our fellow citizens to undertake the proper documentation of their identity and work; and for our fellow citizens to be discriminating about so-called information spread by excitable, even malicious, and irresponsible individuals or groups.