To: Filipino workers seeking employment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
You are kindly requested to read the following information.
I. Saudi sponsorship (“Kifalat”) system:
Saudi sponsorship (“Kifalat”) system: A Saudi sponsor (”Kafeel”) is entitled under the local laws to certain controls on his/her employees. Only the sponsor can obtain work-permit, resident permit (“iqama”), final exit/ exit re-entry or any other legal documents for his/her expatriate employee. Saudi sponsors usually keep passports of their workers with them and provide only resident permits to allow the workers to move around inside Saudi Arabia. The only legal way for an expatriate worker to leave Saudi Arabia, if the sponsor does not co-operate, is through labour courts, which may take several months. Since all expatriate workers are now finger-printed on arrival, it is not possible to leave Saudi Arabia without sponsor’s clearance.
II. Free Visa:
There is no such category as free (“Azad”) visa. All work visas include name of the sponsor/establishment. It is illegal to work with an employer other than the sponsor. It is also illegal to run independent businesses/shops registered in the names of Saudi nationals (against some monthly or annual payment). Expatriates can legally work only as employees of their sponsors (unless they fall into the category of investors).
III. Domestic workers or Filipino Household Service Worker:
The domestic workers are not covered under the Saudi Labor Law. House-drivers, house-boys, housemaids, agriculture workers, shepherds, baby-sitter, house-nurse, cook (for house), ladies tailor, beauticians, house cleaners, etc., have been categorized as domestic workers. There is no fixed work-schedule/duty hours, provision for mid-term leave etc. for domestic workers. Domestic workers are not entitled to seek redressal of their work related disputes through Saudi Labour courts. A domestic worker’s normal tenure is two years.
IV. Escaping from work-place:
A sponsor can report his/her employee runaway (“huroob”), if the worker absents himself from work without permission (work-strikes are illegal in Saudi Arabia). Once a worker is reported run-away, his status becomes illegal and he cannot approach any Saudi authority for redressal of his grievances. The only course left to a run-away worker is to submit to the law of the land and report to the nearest deportation authority (‘Tarheel’). Obtaining requisite clearances (from the sponsor and other Saudi authorities) may take the deportation authorities a couple of months and during this time the run-away worker may have to stay in overcrowded deportation centers. A detainee deported through deportation centre is banned from entering Saudi Arabia for a period of five years (The ban may be extended to other GCC countries in near future).
Saudi labour law has provision of annual leave. However, in practice, the sponsor can postpone the leave taking the plea of functional requirements. Sanctioning Emergency leave to an employee depends entirely on the subjective satisfaction/ state of relationship between the employee and his/her sponsor. Since a large number of employees do not return to Saudi Arabia after availing leave, most small establishments/individual employers retain the visa cost, resident permit, medical insurance and other incidental expenses incurred for recruiting the worker as security before allowing the worker to go on leave.
VI. Termination of work contract:
A sponsor may not allow his employee to leave Saudi Arabia before completing the contract (2/3 years). A sponsor can legally claim all expenses incurred for recruitment to release his worker before completion of contract term. Usually, the Saudi contracts do not include clause for mid-term termination of contract (after due notice). Even where the mid-term termination clause is there, the Saudi labour courts may postpone release of worker on certain grounds (arrival of replacement, completion of an ongoing project completes, etc.).
VII. Legal recourse:
A worker may approach Philippine Embassy or Philippine Overseas Labor Office or POLO/OWWA office or direct to Saudi Labor Office to file a formal complaint against the employer’s violation of Saudi Labor Law. OFW runaways are advised to report to Assistance to National Section of the Philippine Embassy or to POLO/OWWA within 24 hours. Do not let your employer do the first move or report you as Absconder to Saudi authorities or police.
Legal process in KSA is slow and even implementation of court verdict may take a long time like any other courts in every country. However, it will take more time if the worker’s employer is not cooperating.
VIII. Recruiting agents:
Workers should directly deal with Philippine recruiting agents or agency authorized or licensed by POEA and pay only the prescribe charges. Middlemen should be avoided. They are advised to check the work visa & work contract (salary and other conditions) carefully and should never leave Philippines without obtaining a copy of written work contract (signed both by the worker and recruiting agent/representative of the sponsor) and preferably attested by POEA.
IX. Precautions: Bringing the following items into the country is an offence:
i. Drugs (it carries death penalty in Saudi Arabia) (Certain kinds of medicines may be misunderstood as drugs and therefore, bringing in any kind of medicine should be avoided)
ii. Alcoholic drinks.
iii. Non-Islamic religious symbols/photos/pictures/idols
iv. Obscene print/audio/video material
X. Vital information:
A worker should carry a copy each of the passport, work-visa & work contract and also complete contact details of the sponsor, recruiting agent(s), Embassy/Consulate of Philippines in Saudi Arabia. The information should also be available with the family of the worker in Philippines.
XI. Saudi justice system:
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country ruled in accordance with the Sharia. Apart from the sentence for a crime (under public rights), the convict also has to pay damages to the affected party (under private rights) before he could be released.
XII. Assistance from Embassy/Consulate:
The Embassy may be approached by a worker for resolution of labor dispute with his/her sponsor. Embassy/consulate officials try to persuade the sponsor for a reconciliatory settlement. However, if the matter remains unresolved, a worker may have to approach the concerned Saudi authorities/labor court assisted by Embassy or POLO. It is not within the purview of the Embassy/Consulate to direct a Foreign Employer/ Saudi government authorities to grant leave, send a worker on exit or settle the dues.
Prospective workers are, therefore, advised to insist on provision of “mid-term termination” (by giving a prior notice or depositing one/two months salary etc. in lieu thereof ) in the work contract.
XIII. Transfer of sponsorship (Tanazul) and NOC:
It is the prerogative of the sponsor to grant transfer of sponsorship or provide NOC at the end of the contract term. Transfer of sponsorship and NOC, therefore, should be negotiated between employee and employer. A worker should finished first his 2 years contract with his sponsor before he can request for a transfer of sponsorship.
XIV. Exit re-entry visa: GCC countries through cooperation agreement are contemplating to implement a measure to ensure that workers, who go to their countries on leave should return to complete their contract terms. Workers leaving Saudi Arabia on exit re-entry visa, therefore, may not be able to enter any GCC country if they fail to return to work before the re-entry visa expire.
Those with exit re-entry visa who are able to return to KSA with new employer, will experienced questioning by Saudi Immigration authorities at the airport upon detecting that their identity and fingerprints match to those expatriates with pending records or having previous exit re-entry visa in their immigration data system.
Procedures when expatriates with exit/re-entry leaves the Kingdom and does not return
1) When the sponsored expatriate traveled outside the Kingdom carrying exit and re-entry visa, the sponsor must revoke the Residence Permit of his sponsored and (secure) a page copy of his passport on which the exit and re-entry visa stamped on.
2) When the foreign worker failed to return back to KSA after two months; the sponsor must follow-up the Office of Jawazat on which the visa was issued to receive the Iqamah and to get a receipt from there containing retrieval of Iqamah to deposit it on the Iqamah file of the worker.
3) The office of the Jawasat or Saudi Passport Office will update the file status of the foreign worker, such as fingerprints and other personal information and forward the detailed information to the Saudi Immigration data base.
4) And if the sponsor got any information that his foreigner sponsored who he gave an Exit and Re-Entry Visa returned to the Kingdom, then he must report it to the Office of Investigation and Tracking Foreigners for necessary legal action.
Please be guided accordingly.