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Changes to Saudi Employment Laws Spell Good News for Expats

Over the past few months the news for expats in Saudi Arabia

seems to have been consistently bad. One new rule after another has been

introduced that will make being an expat in Saudi Arabia harder than ever

before. These rules affect everything from limiting how many expat employment

positions are available through to where expats can live and the impact the

length of their stay may have on their employer. Now, for the first time in

months, it seems that there may actually be some good news for expats coming

out of Saudi Arabia.

One recurring problem found in Saudi Arabia has been that

thanks to the Saudization rules, work visas have generally been linked to a

specific job role. Expat workers have been obliged to work only in that one

single role, for one single employer. Switching roles – or employers – has

essentially been off-limits. Instead, an expat would have to leave the country,

then apply for another position from their home country, arrange the visa and

then move back. Understandably in cases where an employment contract hasn’t

worked out, this has been less than convenient for hard-working expats.

It is not unheard of for there to be legitimate problems

involving expat employment. For example, companies go out of business or are

shut down from time to time, and their expat employees then find themselves not

only unemployed but also now lacking the visa that was tied to their job. As a

result, some expats have felt obliged to leave the country through no fault of

their own, and at considerable personal expense.

Another problem seen from time to time in expat working

arrangements involves less-than-scrupulous employers, tempting in workers from

abroad with promises of work, but then demanding that their newly arrived

staffing actually perform alternative duties from those promised. This can put

expats in a difficult position, as they will either need to knowingly break the

rules by performing a role for which they aren’t approved, or are forced to

leave the country immediately.

Both of these situations can cause problems for expats, and

generally will force them to leave the country against their will. There was

simply no other option apart from going “feral” and working jobs for which they

have not been approved. This certainly does happen, though the Saudi government

have been clamping down on illegal workers like this, evacuating them from the

country and banning them from ever returning.

Now, though, a change has been promised which will allow

expats in Saudi Arabia to change their sponsor, and so remain in the Kingdom as

a legal worker.

The new rules relate specifically to stalled construction

projects; one of the biggest draws of expat workers. Here workers may, in

conjunction with local government agencies, agree a change of sponsor from one

contractor to another. This will be done with the agreement of all parties; the

old and new contractors, the expat themselves and the government.

In such a way it is now possible for expats in Saudi Arabia

to move from one employer to another, without having to leave the country. This

will make working in the country a far more tempting proposition for expats.

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