NEARLY A MILLION EXPATS GRANTED EXIT VISAS BEFORE HAJ
By Irfan Mohammed
JEDDAH, Oct 28 — Thousands of expats who want to leave Saudi Arabia under the amnesty period are in a dilemma following the introduction of a new condition by Saudi authorities that they should be in possession of original documents to prove that they had entered the Kingdom legally.
Prior to the extension of the grace period, expats who did not have original documents in their possession but had the entry number, known as “rakam al-dukhool” could obtain exit applications processed by Saudi passport officials. However, since the extension of the amnesty period to Nov. 3, authorities are now insisting that expats produce their original entry documents in their passport or residency cards to prove that they entered the Kingdom legally.
Thousands of expat workers received their original passports through their diplomatic missions in Jeddah and Riyadh, but now, those who do not have their passports or iqamas in their possession have to contend with the new condition. Most of these workers entered the Kingdom prior to the introduction of the fingerprinting system in 2002.
Many expat workers ran away from their sponsors, leaving behind their passports and iqamas.
These workers cannot prove that they entered the country through legal channels since their biometrics had not been recorded and they are not in possession of their documents. In some cases, passport authorities at deportation centers in Jeddah are accepting newly issued travel documents and granting exit visas, but in most cases, new documents are being rejected, resulting in chaos.
Foreign missions are working with Saudi authorities for leniency toward this category of applicants who wish to leave the Kingdom. They have tried to explain that there was no possibility of expats from south Asian countries entering the Kingdom illegally since these countries do not share land borders with Saudi Arabia.
According to statistics from the Passport Department, a total of 951,272 expatriates have been granted exit visas prior to Haj and this figure is expected to grow.—Arab News