Jobs Disappearing For Foreigners in Saudi Arabia
Now is not a good time for expats to look for work in Saudi Arabia. A recent government campaign, called “Saudisation,” will affect the jobs in Saudi Arabia for foreigners. It insists that companies abandon old practices of hiring outsiders instead of citizens. While the economy still struggles due to low oil prices, new policies demand more opportunities for unemployed Saudis.
An Exodus of Expats
One of the latest Saudisation rulings bans expats from five more sectors of their economy: Al Qaseem markets, malls, temporary stands, health and tourism. Saudi Arabia’s labor ministry expects these sectors to employ 33,000 citizens by 2018’s end, since right now, they only take up 60% of those jobs. 7,500 of those jobs will be doctors and nurses in the health sector, while malls will provide another 6,000. Currently Saudi Arabians occupy 50% of jobs in the health sector.
Another wave of expat ousting hit about two weeks ago. Academic positions in government universities were added to the citizens-only list. The only way an expat could be hired in that sector would be if no qualified Saudis applied. The Ministry of Education also ordered universities to advertise the job sufficiently on websites and in local newspapers.
Helping the Economy with Drastic Measures
Prior to Saudisation, most companies preferred to hire foreigners for a variety of reasons. Sometimes Saudi candidates didn’t meet their requirements, or other times, companies needed a large number of temporary workers for construction jobs. Along with banning expats from industry sectors, the Saudi Arabian government implemented other policies to employ citizens.
One solution is to raise fees and taxes for expats. Saudi Arabia already taxes companies 200 riyals ($53.33) for each expat if foreign employees outnumber citizens. Now, expat dependents with families will have to pay another 100 riyals ($26.66), and the government plans to gradually increase this number until 2020. It’s been reported that some companies are taking these new taxes out of the expat’s paycheck. Businesses with more locals than foreigners used to have their fee waived, but now they’ll only get a discount.
Visa application fees will also drastically increase on October 2nd. The standard fee is currently SAR 500 ($133.32), but now the fees are rising based on the length of an expat’s stay. A two-year, multiple-entry visit visa will run you SAR 8,000 ($2,133.19).
Another government tactic is to delay the visa application process. Companies used to apply with a popular “block visa” method, where they would receive the Ministry of Labour’s approval for a bunch of foreign jobs at once. Pending approval, a new expat employee would apply for individual visa with his or her country’s Consulate or the Saudi Embassy. The procedure takes about three to four months in its current form. Now, companies are required to post each job separately on Taqat, the Ministry of Labour’s new online portal and job database. Businesses will need to prove their efforts to hire locals before their “block visa” requests are approved.