by Expatguru - 04/25/2013
"This article describes certain recent important developments in the job front in Saudi Arabia and its impact on expatriates seeking employment in the kingdom."
The Saudi cabinet this week approved major changes to 14 articles of its labor law, which takes effect immediately. The Government of Saudi Arabia has been carrying on a campaign called ‘Nitaqat’ for the past six months. The essence of this campaign is to provide employment to Saudi citizens by driving out illegal foreign workers.
At the outset, I would like to clarify that expats who are working legally in the kingdom have absolutely nothing to worry about. This campaign is targeted only against illegal workers.
Saudi Arabia is home to millions of expatriate workers from around the globe. In recent years, the number of illegal workers in the kingdom has gone up exponentially. There are two categories of illegal workers. In the first category are those who have absconded from their sponsors and are working in the kingdom with someone else. The second category are those who have paid huge sums of money to some sponsors and are running businesses in the kingdom in the names of these sponsors. Both these are activities are illegal, but action against offenders was not strictly taken all these years. But when businesses in the kingdom which legitimately belong to Saudis were captured by illegally by foreigners, it is natural that the Government took corrective steps which is what the current campaign is all about.
Out of the 14 new amendments, one of the important changes approved by the Cabinet pertains to spouses of expats working elsewhere. In the past, spouses used to work as teachers in International Schools, while still under the sponsorship of their husbands. The new law now requires that every expatriate in the kingdom MUST work only under his or her sponsor and under nobody else. Considering the impact the current campaign would have in the Education sector, the Saudi King has taken a wise decision by issuing a royal decree giving three months time for all such persons currently employed in the kingdom on irregular sponsorship, to regularize their employment.
What this means is that, rather than being in the sponsorship of their husbands, they now have to change their sponsorship to the schools where they currently work. Likewise, husbands who are under the sponsorship of their wives can now work only if they change their sponsorship to the persons employing them.
In several ways, this is a welcome step because teachers would now be guaranteed legal protection and would be entitled to all benefits as laid down by the labor law. As already mentioned, for all expats currently working legally in the kingdom, there is going to be absolutely no change in their day to day functioning. This is directed only against those who do not have the correct sponsorship papers. What this new change also means, is that it is no longer possible for spouses of expats to come to the kingdom and take up jobs locally, as before, while still being on a family visa. It is certainly possible to take up work assignments, provided the sponsorship changes from the spouse to the actual employer.