Much like the uncertainty of Brexit, expats in Saudi Arabia are struggling with another issue. Over the months we have reported on the restrictions of the proposed Saudi green card and the termination of employment contracts of expat employees. Foreigners in the Kingdom already feel as if their futures and lives are hanging in the balance and the newly introduced family tax is only adding fuel to the fire.
Expats living in Saudi Arabia are up in arms as the online portal being used to collect the family tax payment has constantly suffered with computer glitches. Some individuals are being left out of pocket or unsure as to whether their payment has been cleared.
New Family Tax in Saudi Arabia
Since the 1st of July, expats living in and working in Saudi Arabia will have to pay the government £21 (SAR100) each month as part of a new family tax. However, this fee is per dependent, including children and household staff. For a family with two children and a gardener, this is £756 a year.
Expats were originally expecting to pay their family tax annually, when their residence permit was processed for renewal. However, in late June, Saudi’s General Directorate of Passports stated that any foreign national looking to leave the Kingdom during the summer for any period will be required, by law, to pay the new tax in advance. Furthermore, under the new visa system, expats must also pay an exit and re-entry fee for every family member heading on holiday or business trip.
In the first week of July, over 2.2 million dependents were registered on the new family tax system. The passport office in the city of Jeddah also reported a huge influx of expats panicking over how and when the new tax needs to be paid, with fear of being reprimanded if not completed sooner rather than later.
Most worryingly of all, aside from the computer glitches causing mayhem and failing to update the system, visas are being cancelled without any warning or explanation.
The Saudi Gazette reported one family caught up in the failing system. An expat working in Riyadh, the man explained that his wife and family were holidaying in London when her visa was cancelled, despite it being arranged prior to 1st July and valid until 20th August.
He explained, “I took a two-month single entry exit-reentry visa in June. I returned to the Kingdom one month before the expiry of my visa.”
“However, my wife remained in London. When I checked her visa status on the Muqeem (visa) website, I was shocked to find that that her visa which was valid until 20 August had expired,” the man told the Kingdom’s newspaper reporter.
The family was then forced to pay a fee for his wife’s return, which took over 48 hours to process via the online system. Luckily, her visa was approved, but others have not been so lucky and are still struggling to find clarity regarding the new family tax.