Cost of the ‘free visa’

The “free visa” scam has been going on in the Kingdom for decades.

May 07, 2013
Cost of the ‘free visa’
Cost of the ‘free visa’







The “free visa” scam has been going on in the Kingdom for decades. In the past, a person would buy a work visa for Saudi Arabia, come to the Kingdom and pay the visa sponsor a set monthly amount. The task of finding a job, the government fees and all the expenses of life in the Kingdom, were borne by the grateful holder of the “free visa.” Many expatriate engineers arrived in Saudi Arabia through this route.



The free visa has never been a legal means of entering Saudi Arabia and now the government is enforcing rules that prohibit workers from taking jobs with businesses other than their sponsor of record. This has resulted in thousands of engineers and technicians in the information technology field facing severe exploitation at the hands of their Saudi sponsors.



Take one case, that of a Kashmiri IT technician who came to Saudi Arabia two months ago. In India he paid SR20,000 for a free visa. The technician handled all the expenses for visa processing in India and the airline ticket to Saudi Arabia. Upon arrival in the Kingdom, he paid an additional SR1,500 for the processing of the  work permit and Iqama. He has never communicated with his sponsor, a woman living in Al Ahsa.



As his sponsor has no job for him, within the next two months, the technician must transfer his sponsorship to another company where he can work. Since he is new to the Kingdom, it must be to a high tech firm with an “excellent” Nitaqat ranking, and an unfilled quota for Indians.

Thankfully, due to his impressive qualifications, this week the technician found such a firm interested in offering him a job. When he went to discuss the situation with the agent of his sponsor, he was told that he would have to pay the sponsor SR10,000 or she would not agree to the transfer. If he refuses to pay, by June she will register him as a runaway.



A check of the sponsor’s business through government online systems shows that she has 50 non-Saudi employees listed against her establishment. One can only imagine how many of those expatriates paid for their visas. The Kashmiri technician stated that he was supposed to pay his sponsor, through her agent, SR500 per month as long as the sponsorship was held with her establishment.   The sponsor’s agent believes that the technician should be thankful that the transfer payment is only SR10,000, because the sponsor had expected to hold the Iqama for two years and that she is “being kind” by giving him  a discount of SR2,000. If the Saudi woman demands SR10,000 from every expatriate employee on her sponsorship in order to release their letters of transfer, then in the next month she will reap up to half a million riyals from the government’s efforts to clean up the labor market.



The Kashmiri technician left his job in India and waved goodbye to his pregnant wife three months ago.  He hasn’t had income since then. In the job interview this week, his potential employer asked the technician, “Why if you had a good job with a good company in India, did you throw it away to come to Saudi Arabia?”  The expatriate’s answer, “I was misinformed.”


May 07, 2013
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