As repeated studies have revealed, relationships between expats and natives are more common than you might imagine. It seems that love knows no limits and just because two people arise from different cultures doesn’t necessarily rule out a healthy and long term marriage.
However quite how these wedded couples are treated by their adopted countries can differ wildly. In some cases even once married the expatriate is not considered as a “native” which can cause all manner of problems. It is not uncommon for expat residents married to locals to struggle in terms of healthcare, employment or even residency.
In Saudi Arabia, with its 9.2 million expat workers, the problem is encountered far more frequently than less popular expat destinations. With thousands of marriages between native Saudis and foreign workers the level of legal protection offered for expat partners has long been a topic of concern in the expat community here.
Over the years Saudi Arabia has progressively sought to improve the living situations for expat partners. We reported recently that in cases where an expat and a native Saudi resident had children. In this instance, the Saudi government has granted these children the same benefits as their Saudi parent.
Generally the same courtesy has been applied to couples involving a Saudi man and an expatriate wife. Sadly, until now the reverse has not been true. Male expats married to a Saudi lady often found themselves disappointed by how they were treated. Until recently, for example, while it was possible for an expat husband to visit his Saudi wife, when his visa ran out he could still be deported against the family’s wishes.
However now all this is set to change in a landmark movement which has been applauded by experts in the region. Going forward expat husbands will now be entitled to the same residence visas as their wives, facilitating a stronger and more permanent family unit. The change will also eliminate years of anguish felt by these expat couples.
The rules specify that expat husbands can now work in the private sector and will be regarded as “Saudi” when calculating the “Saudization” figures required of employers in the country. Marriages will also be formerly recognized and documented.
Going forward the Saudi government assures expat husbands that they will be considered fully-fledged Saudi citizens and can enjoy all the benefits and security that this situation brings.
This can only be good news for the expat community. No doubt many couples will begin to sleep easier knowing that their union will not be broken up by government bureaucracy. Finally they can begin to plan their future together, safe in the knowledge that the husband will not be forced to leave the country in the near future.