Saudi Arabia extends grace period for undocumented workers
Foreign illegal laborers wait in a queue at the Saudi immigration offices at al-Isha quarter in al-Khazan district west of Riyadh (Source: AFP/FAYEZ NURELDINE)
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Hundreds of thousands of expatriates and Saudis breathed a sigh of relief across the country yesterday as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, extended the amnesty period until Nov. 3.
The royal order extending the original three-month amnesty, which ends today, was cited in a Ministry of Interior statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.
The statement said the decree was issued taking into account recommendations from the Saudi ministries of foreign affairs, labor and interior.
The statement on the royal decree also cited the requests from various foreign embassies that had complained of the “pressure on their missions” from the large numbers of workers seeking to correct their status.
The statement said the decree was introduced to “make it easier on citizens and residents.” There was also a warning issued by the Saudi government that there would be a crackdown on all illegal workers after the amnesty ends. The ministries of interior and labor urged all undocumented expatriates to correct their status.
The royal order comes amid uncertainty, with only one day left of the grace period issued earlier by King Abdullah.
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented expatriate workers, including overstaying pilgrims and workers who escaped from their employers, have corrected their status since the government announced the three-month grace period.
Among the countries with large 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 expatriate workforce.
The new concessions will also allow family members of an expatriate living legally in the Kingdom 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 in the country, the ministry said.