Expats feel the pinch of new fee

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By Layan Damanhouri and Irfan Mohammed

Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Expats going on vacation with their families in this peak holiday season felt the pinch of the new dependent fee, which came into force on Saturday, when they tried to pay the exit-reentry visa fee for family members.

Those who wanted to pay the exit-reentry visa fee for their family members were prompted by the online payment system to first clear the dependent fee for the remaining months of the validity of their iqamas (residence permits).

From Saturday evening till Sunday morning, the online payment system was displaying only exit-reentry fees. But hours later it started displaying complete and accurately calculated amount of dependent fee based on the validity of iqama against each dependent.

The payment of dependent fee is not only directly linked with the renewal of iqama but also the issuance of exit-reentry visa, whichever comes first.

The exit-reentry process can be done against single individual dependent by paying the fee till the date of the validity of iqama. However, for the renewal of iqama it is mandatory to settle the amount for all dependents, according to a human resources expert of a leading business firm.

“The fee mechanism falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance. Passport Department (Jawazat) has nothing to say. It is working according to the new system,” a senior Jawazat official told Saudi Gazette.

As part of the government’s Fiscal Balance Program, a resident’s dependent is expected to pay SR1,200 for one year as of July 1, 2017.

All dependents are included in the regulation, including children, wife, as well as maids and drivers working directly for a sponsor.

Monthly fee for each dependent costs SR100 this year. It will increase by SR100 per month every year reaching SR400 by 2020 for each dependent.

This will generate SR1 billion in revenue by the end of the year and SR65 billion by 2020, according Okaz Arabic daily.

Saliha Gardezi, a Pakistani expatriate born in the Kingdom who lives with her British husband and their baby daughter in Riyadh, said: “I totally understand Saudi Arabia’s need to give more opportunities to its nationals and tackle unemployment. However, the decision to effectively tax expats to the point that many of them will be forced to leave is demeaning to those people who have also contributed to the country’s development alongside their Saudi brothers and sisters.”

Omar Ghazi, an Egyptian national living in Riyadh, said the new fees will gradually affect residents in the Kingdom.

“Low-income and middle class families with children will have to send their family members on final exit,” he said, adding, “I’ve seen many people who have already done this.”

Farah Al-Ahmar, a Jordanian national who grew up in the Kingdom and is currently seeking better job opportunities abroad, said the fees will be a burden on families. “It’s becoming costly for families, especially those who have several children. Such additional fees are putting pressure on non-Saudis living here,” she said.


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