The requests of readers

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One of the joys of being a columnist is the feedback one receives following the publication of his or her piece. Mind you, it is not always flattering and can occasionally be threatening, but in any case, these letters make for interesting reading. Then there are requests to publish the reader’s concerns regarding an issue that is bothering them.

One such email is from Mohamed who kindly requests that I write an article about dependent fees. He wants to know whether the fees imposed on expatriate dependents will continue or cease after 2020 and requests that I put forth this question to those behind the law. He adds: “Because we have paid a huge amount of dependent tax for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019, I now need to know whether this shall continue or stop in 2020. Accordingly, we shall decide to pay next year’s levy to support Saudi Vision 2030. If it continues with the same amount or is increased, we will be forced to send our loving family back to our country, because we cannot afford to pay SR16,000 plus for our dependents. Also, we are not getting any benefits for the paid dependent tax. Because this year is very crucial, we have to decide whether our children’s studies will continue in the Kingdom or we should send them back to our country. Thank you for your excellent article. – Mohamed.”

Now I have to add that the dependent tax has taken a big bite out of the earnings of mid and lower salaried expatriates. Hundreds of thousands of expatriates have already left, unable to cope with the financial demands of the levy. Executive expats do not worry too much about it as they are making much more money or their companies are footing the bill. However, the majority are at Mohamed’s economic level and can ill afford the steady annual increases.

Another reader seeks answers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He writes: “I would like to bring to your kind attention the matter of visit visa fees for different nationalities. As you are aware, we expatriates are separated from our parents, wife and children for many years. Many expats dream of bringing their family and parents to the Kingdom on a visit visa to balance their family and work life in the Kingdom. To be honest, we have serious concerns about the visit visa fees charged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Why is there a differentiation between nationalities? Why do Indian nationals have the lowest visit visa fees a SR300 per person, whereas other nationals are required to pay SR2,000 per person to bring their family to the Kingdom?

“We would appreciate it if you could seek some advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and write an article about this explaining the reason for the discrepancy. Currently, we are financially stuck with these high fees and unable to bring our parents to the Kingdom to be with them in their old age and to take care of them and make them happy in this world to get the full rewards from the Almighty.”

To this reader, I have to say that quite often it is a reciprocal agreement between nations concerning visa fees. So perhaps they should direct the question to their embassy or consulate for answers. For those seeking additional answers, they could try to tweet the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with their questions.

Meanwhile, keep those letters coming. Who knows, one day your input may be on this page.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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