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02 March 2024

Saudi Arabia urged to ease visa curbs

By Nadim Kawach



Saudi Arabia should ease restrictions on the entry of foreign workers to end widespread malpractices and support domestic business, the head of the kingdom’s private sector was quoted as saying yesterday.

Abdul Rahman bin Rashid, Chairman of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which represents the country’s fast-growing private sector, said government restrictions on entry visas for foreign workers had created what he called a visa black market.

“I don’t think the complicated steps to get visas have ended the illegal trade in permits… on the contrary, they have made it worse and created a black market for visas,” he told Saudi Arabia’s Okaz newspaper.

“On the other hand, such measures have started to undermine the interests of businessmen and companies and this has hurt production. If there is a small group that trades in visas, I don’t think all Saudi companies are like this. Restrictions on visas have made things worse.”

Rashid criticised the Saudi government’s new labour recruitment policy, which he said does not take into consideration the economic and social changes in the country since the first oil boom 30 years ago.

“The new measures are forcing our companies to wait for months to get the necessary workers,” he said.

“I believe the best solution is to facilitate rather than complicate the procedures to obtain such visas. This could be accomplished by certain controls on the workers in Saudi Arabia and strict penalties against those who are proved to be involved in visa trading. But I am sure that with the enforcement of this policy, there will be no more visa traders. You know why? Because no one will turn to those traders again and this will radically eliminate the visa black market.”
Like other Gulf oil producers, Saudi Arabia is heavily reliant on an expatriate workforce, estimated at more than six million.

But the country has been locked in a drive to gradually dispense with the foreign workforce to create jobs for its fast growing citizens.