By Md Al-Sulami
JEDDAH, Jan 3 — In a major relief to undocumented expats, authorities have given a two-month grace period for thousands of expatriates who could not correct their legal status during the seven-month amnesty period, to complete the rectification procedures at the Passport Department (Jawazat).
“Interior Minister Prince Muhammad bin Naif has ordered the department to complete correction procedures of expatriates whose papers were being processed by the Labor Ministry during the amnesty, before March 1,” said Maj. Gen. Suleiman Al-Yahya, director general of the Passport Department.
The minister issued the order in view of the various circumstances under which many expatriates could not complete their residency correction procedures during the amnesty that ended on November 3.
The order will allay fears of many expatriates, whose rectification papers were in the midst of processing when the amnesty ended, that they could be arrested or penalized or deported as violators of the Kingdom’s immigration regulations.
Authorities had earlier warned that illegal workers would face penal measures such as two years in jail besides facing fines of up to SR100,000. Special teams have been set up to inspect pharmacies, barber shops and restaurants.
According to reliable estimates, more than four million foreigners rectified their labor and residency status during the amnesty period, while around one million illegal workers left the Kingdom. The seven-month grace period benefited nearly half of all foreigners living in the Kingdom.
The original three-month deadline for the amnesty, announced in April, was extended from July after it became evident that thousands of applications would not be processed in time as authorities struggled to keep up with the rush.
In a related development, the Labor Ministry said private companies have to register their addresses with Saudi Post to receive 10 basic services such as change of profession, transfer of services, transfer of information about workers between branches, updating data of a firm’s license, Saudization certificate, change of business, issuance and renewal of work permits, giving information about absconding workers or canceling it, and hiring of foreign workers.
The new system came into effect on January 2, 2014. “We’ll not accept any applications for the above services from private companies register their addresses with Saudi Post,” the ministry said.–Arab News