JEDDAH: King Abdullah, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, has extended by four months the amnesty period for undocumented expatriates in the Kingdom to correct their status. A royal order cited by a Ministry of Interior statement and carried by the Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday said the original three-month grace period, which ends on July 4, will be extended to the end of the current Hijra year 1434, equivalent to Nov. 4, 2013.
Once the new deadline expires, inspections by appropriate agencies such as the Ministries of Labor and Interior, will resume inspections in various regions of the Kingdom and all penalties will apply on violators, the statement said. With this new deadline, the Ministries of Interior and Labor urged all undocumented expatriates who have yet to register to come forward and have their status corrected. “With reference to the royal order allowing for workers who violated the labor and iqama laws a period of three months starting from 25/5/1434H to correct their status, and based on the recommendations of ministries (Foreign Affairs, Labor, and Interior) regarding full cooperation and quick response of citizens and residents, and in view of the full cooperation of concerned Embassies and Consulates to provide the required documentation and their requests due to the pressure on their missions, and as a result of the large number of those who are seeking correction of their status who need more time, and in order to make it easer on citizens and residents who have taken the correction period seriously, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud has ordered the extension of the correction period until the end of the current Hejira year 1434. ”
The appropriate inspections will resume in various regions of the Kingdom starting from the first of Muharram 1435H and all penalties will apply on violators. “The Ministries of Interior and Labor urge all concerned to work on the requirements to correct their status as soon as possible and within the period mentioned, and whoever will not respond will be subject to maximum penalties in accordance with regulations,” the royal order said. The royal order comes amid uncertainty, with only two days left of the grace period earlier issued by King Abdullah. Hundreds of thousands of undocumented expatriate workers, including overstaying pilgrims and workers who escaped from their employers, have come forward to have their visa status corrected since the government issued the three-month grace period. The grace period itself was seen as a magnanimous decision on the part of the government, and everyone applauded it. Various embassies and consulates as well as Saudi business groups have asked for an extension of the deadline, saying the July 4 deadline was just not enough considering the huge number of expatriates seeking to avail themselves of the amnesty program.
Among the countries with big numbers of undocumented workers in the Kingdom are India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Egypt, Nepal and Yemen. The Ministry of Labor said that with the new deadline, businesses should try to expedite the process of solving problematic cases involving their expat work force. The new concessions will also give the right to family members of a legally resident expatriate to work if they are 18 years or older, provided the family member has already spent two years or more with his or her family, the ministry said.