Saudi firms want Nov 4 worker amnesty deadline

Asian labourers work at a flyover construction site in eastern Riyadh. Saudi Arabia gave illegal foreign workers a three-month grace period to legalise their status. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Asian labourers work at a flyover construction site in eastern Riyadh. Saudi Arabia gave illegal foreign workers a three-month grace period to legalise their status. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Contractors in Saudi Arabia have called on the government to extend to November 4 a deadline for illegal workers to correct their visa status, it was reported.

Much attention has been drawn in recent months to Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on illegal expatriates, which has seen more than 200,000 foreign workers leave the country so far.

As things stand, foreign workers have until July 3 to correct their status or leave the country.

“There are huge numbers of workers still waiting for their turn to correct the status and the remaining few days will not be enough to handle them,” Abdullah Ridwan, chairman of the contractors committee at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News.

He called on King Abdullah to extend the deadline to November 4, which marks the start of the next Islamic year.

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.

Following the introduction of the tax in November, employers with a higher proportion of foreign staff than Saudis must pay SR2,400 each year per overseas worker.

The policy is aimed at encouraging more private companies to hire Saudi nationals, which according to government estimates make up less than one-tenth of all employees in the sector.

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