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.