Dependents of expatriate workers who, usually upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, are obliged to undergo a series of medical examinations in order to obtain residence permits called iqamas, are now exempt from doing so by the authority of the Ministry of Health.
These new regulations do not only apply to those entering the Kingdom for the first time, but also to those already living in the area and wanting to renew their residence permits including family members and relations to expatriate workers. The rules do not apply to the workers themselves who will still be obliged to undergo the medical examinations upon their initial entry of the Kingdom as a precaution against any highly infectious diseases that are likely to circulate.
What does this mean for those moving abroad on work visas and their families arriving on residence visas? It is a necessity for them to get medical certificates and expatriate medical insurance from home. The certificates must also be approved by the Saudi authorities before admission into the Kingdom can be granted.
However, certain expats from Asia and Africa will still be required to undergo the medical tests for fear of possible diseases and illnesses caught from stagnant water.
Medical reports for the purpose of renewing iqamas or issuing them are only being accepted in electronic form.
This new hurdle in expatriate healthcare can be argued to be in conjunction with the fact that approximately 12,000 expats working within the public sector in Saudi Arabia lost their jobs or had their applications turned down in 2013. This is due to a move by the government to provide more jobs for nationals.
A move to freeze all expat posts until suitable and qualified locals can fill them is thought to be implemented. An estimated 9,250 expats had their job contracts declined for renewal and an estimated 2,600 expats had their job applications rejected. The government have announced that no expat seeking a job in their sector will be considered until post had has advertised to the locals first. If no suitable candidate is found among the locals, the vacancy will then be opened up to expats.
The Saudi government is aiming to reduce the Kingdom’s dependency on expat workers as 9 of the 30 million population is made up of expatriate workers.
So if you are one of the lucky few who has managed to bag a job in the country, expatriate medical insurance would be advised. For family members or relations of the expatriate worker, moving with a residence visa, expat health insurance is vital to abide by the rules of the Ministry of Health.