Saudi Arabia says no new amnesty for foreign workers

Authorities say November deadline will not be extended; illegal workers will be 'firmly' punished
Asian labourers work at a flyover construction site in eastern Riyadh. Saudi Arabia extended the deadline for illegal foreign workers to legalise their status. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)
By Andy Sambidge
Sun 15 Sep 2013 05:35 PM

Saudi Arabian officials said on Sunday that the amnesty for foreign workers to obtain legal status will not be extended again when in expires on November 3.

The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour both called on all expatriates violating the regulations of residence and work to take advantage of the extension which was announced in July.

The two ministries confirmed that after the expiry of the November deadline, "the legally prescribed penalties will be firmly applied against any violating expatriates and their employers with no complacency regarding this matter", Saudi Press Agency reported.

Violations of visa laws outlined by the Ministry of Interior include forging documents and employers sheltering those who overstay visas. Companies could be hit with fines of up to SR30,000 ($8,000) per illegal worker and be named in the press.

Out of Saudi Arabia’s population of close to 30m, close to 10m are expats, primarily from other Arab countries and South Asia.

The policy is the latest move in an apparent drive to bolster employment among Saudi citizens, where the jobless rate currently stands at more than 12 percent.

In July, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah extended the amnesty for foreign workers from July 3 to November 3.

Earlier this year the kingdom began to crack down on the many foreign workers who have violated their visa terms with surprise inspections on streets and in company offices.

Tens of thousands of people were deported or decided to leave the country under this pressure, raising concern about possible damage to the economy if deportations continued.

The government then announced an amnesty during which workers would be forgiven any fees or fines for visa violations such as overstaying or switching jobs, but bureaucratic delays mean many have still not regularised their status.

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