No ban of OFWs in Saudi Arabia

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs that there is no ban on workers who wish to return to their jobs in Saudi Arabia.

It also reiterated the recent announcement of the Saudi Ministry of Labor spokesperson Mr. Hattab al-Hanzi that the ban on the issuance of work visas for domestic workers from the Philippines effective July 2 applies only to new work visas. It does not cover the household service workers with valid work visas who are already in Saudi Arabia or whose iqamas (residence permits) are up for renewal or those going on vacation. They can continue to work with their present employers.

This matter was confirmed by Saudi Assistant Deputy Minister of Labor Hashim Rajeh in a recent informal meeting with Labor Attaché Albert Valenciano.

The Embassy also called attention to unconfirmed stories about some vacationing workers who reportedly encountered problems at the immigration counter at the international airport in Riyadh.

“Allegedly, the immigration officer at the airport stamped ‘exit only’ on the respective exit/re-entry visas of the workers. As a result of these stories, OFWs are now having second thoughts of going on vacation for fear that they may not be able to return to Saudi Arabia,” the Embassy said.

Earlier, Mohammad Al-Hussein, spokesman for the Passport Department (Jawasat) in Makkah province has openly denied this when he was interviewed by Saudi reporters.

“There is no absolute truth to it. If it is an exit/re-entry visa then it cannot be changed at the airports. The final exit is stamped only after a series of steps are taken by both the employee and the employer,” he said.
The series of steps being referred to are the issuance of a release letter or no objection certificate (NOC) from the employer stating that it is giving its consent to release the worker and to send him/ her home to his/her country of origin. The employee has to sign a final settlement in which he acknowledges that he has received all his monetary claims from the employer.

These documents are the basis for the issuance by the Jawasat of the final exit visa to the worker. Before the final exit visa is issued, Jawasat also checks whether the worker has any pending police case, traffic violation, or bank loan. It is also required that no vehicle should be registered in the worker’s name at the time of final departure.

The Embassy advises OFWs not to believe these stories easily. As a precaution, vacationing workers should be in contact with their employers just in case they will have similar problems at the airport in Riyadh or elsewhere in the Kingdom. They should report the matter to the Embassy so that it could take appropriate action.

The workers who are already in the Philippines on vacation can get in touch with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to document their case and bring the matter to the attention of the Saudi Embassy in Manila.