Saudi issues clarification on six-year expat visa limit

Measure applies to private sector firms that do not abide by job nationalization quotas

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday put an end to speculation that it is about to kick out all its expatriate workers after six years, clarifying that the decision applies to only those private sector firms that do not abide by the country’s job nationalization quotas.

A government official was reacting to statements on Monday by Saudi Labour Minister Adel Faqih, who said a new incentive programme for the private sector to recruit more Saudis includes limiting the stay of foreign workers to six years.

The minister said the programme would be implemented in June and would give four classifications to companies, including “excellent and green” for those who abide by Saudization quotas and “red and yellow” for non-compliant firms.

“What the Labor Minister meant by his statement was that the measure would be applied on those foreigners who work for companies in the yellow [non-compliant] category,” said Hattab Al-Anazi, official spokesman of the Labour Ministry.

Quoted by the Saudi Arab News daily, he said that companies in the yellow category that did not fulfil Saudization conditions should correct their status in order to get visas of their workers renewed.

He said visas for foreign workers in red category companies would not be renewed at all, irrespective of the years they have spent in the Kingdom.

“The new Nitaqat system allows renewal of iqamas (work visas) without any condition for expatriates who work in companies in the green and excellent category,” Al-Anazi said.

He noted that the new measure would not apply on house servants as their visas would be renewed without considering how many years they stayed in the country. “They are not at all linked with the Nitaqat system,” he said.

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