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Saudi Authorities Direct Foreign Nationals to Acquire Digital Iqama

The passport department of Saudi Arabia has directed foreign nationals residing in the kingdom to acquire the digital residential visa, otherwise known as an iqama, via the kingdom’s official application portal, Absher.

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The authorities have stated the new digital documents would serve as alternate venues of identification for people who can’t produce a physical iqama card. With the new regulation, foreigners residing in the kingdom can procure and save their iqama cards on their mobile phones.


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Saudi Arabia had previously announced to amend designated fee structures and periods for individuals and their families working in the kingdom on 2nd January 2021.

In addition to the ramifications of domestic and international travel, the kingdom also announced its decision to remove the Kafeel system. The Kafeel system is a process that allowed citizens to sponsor foreign nationals visiting the country.

Meanwhile, the kingdom’s Ministry of Human Resource and Social Development (HRSD) has taken notice of strict regulations levied against foreign employees. Some organizational change is also currently in the works to change the yearly fee structure into quarterly. The ministry predicts a lot of issues to be addressed once these regulations are set into play.

Addressing a media briefing earlier this week, the ministry’s labor policy secretary stated that under past rules, renewal fees for an iqama are paid by the employer. The moment the new reforms go live, iqama arrangements will be shifted solely towards the employer-employee pipeline, which is much simpler.

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The secretary further mentioned that reforms previously incubated by the HRSD Ministry in November last year would remain active until 14th March 2021.

As per new regulation, if an employee decides to change his/her employer or amend aspects of their contract before a 2-year waiting period, they will have to pay a sizeable sum to the kingdom as a penalty.

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