No Change in Family Visa Rules: Official
DAMMAM: Government officials have denied recent reports that there have been changes in visa rules for the dependants of expatriate workers. Reports in the English and Arabic media had claimed that high-earning expatriates working in the Kingdom on low-category work visas would be allowed to bring their families into the country on permanent resident visas.
“Those reports are not true,” said a Dammam isteqdam official who requested anonymity.
“The family visa is very much linked to the profession on your iqama. We have issued and are issuing family visas to only those in white-collar jobs such as engineers, doctors and executives. The financial status of the applicant is only one of the conditions.”
According to him, nonprofessionals, such as those who are listed on their iqamas and work permits as laborers, masons, electricians and so forth, will have their applications for family visas rejected automatically. “The rules are clear-cut. Professionals — yes; nonprofessionals — no,” he said.
The general assumption in government circles is that those listed as laborers or drivers on their iqamas will not be able to meet the expenses of their families.
However, there are many expatriates in the Kingdom who are working in top jobs and are earning healthy salaries, yet are only classed as laborers or similar on their iqamas.
Take Abdul Kareem’s case, for instance. He arrived in the Kingdom from India in the late 1980s.
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in commerce, he took up a job at a prominent bank as a typist or tiba’a.
In the years that followed, he rose through the ranks and became a manager in one of the bank’s branches. However, he could not bring his wife and four children to the Kingdom because his iqama still classed him as a typist.
“I even produced a letter from my bank proving my salary to the isteqdam guys. It was more than SR10,000 then. They were sympathetic to my case but were helpless,” he told Arab News.
Abdul Kareem instead took the easier route of inviting his family over on Umrah visas. “The bank had shifted me to Jeddah, and that helped me reunite with my family on and off,” he said.
Like Abdul Kareem, there are hundreds of expatriates working in the Kingdom’s private sector in top jobs who have been designated by their employers as laborers to avoid penalties from the Labor Office for not meeting Saudization targets.
Low-category professions are exempted from rules that govern the implementation of Saudization or nationalization of jobs.
Expatriates in situations similar to that of Abdul Kareem have tried asking their companies to change their professions on the iqama. In many cases, they have succeeded.
“However, that option became too difficult with time. It is just not easy to change the profession on your iqama anymore. It is a very cumbersome process and needs a lot of wasta (influence) and money,” said Sarwar Shakoor, a Pakistani national working as an administrator at an Alkhobar-based IT firm. “I instead invite my family on visit visas.”
By SIRAJ WAHAB | ARAB NEWS
Published: Mar 19, 2010 23:21 Updated: Mar 19, 2010 23:21