Special expat counters at airports planned
Hundreds of expatriates from across Saudi Arabia contacted Arab News on Wednesday for a phone-in program with a top Passport Department official on visa-related issues.
Col. Mohammed Al-Hussain, spokesman for the department in Makkah region, answered questions from Arab News readers for nearly two hours. He also advised them on issues not directly related to his department.
He said the department plans to open special counters for expatriates at airports to speed up entry procedures. “This is part of our expansion plan,” said Al-Hussain when asked about the prospects of opening such counters, especially for those with re-entry visas.
Asked whether there is a plan to cancel the re-entry visa system like other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, he said higher authorities must take a decision on this matter. “We are only an executive body,” he said.
Arab News readers applauded the initiative. “This is a great service for expats. We thank Arab News for this wonderful initiative,” said Shohaib Ahmed.
Most of the questions were related to the extension of visit visas and visa requirements for recruitment. Many expatriates are facing problems after the department decided not to renew visit visas after Ramadan 1 (June 28). In a previous statement, department spokesman Lt. Gen. Ahmed Al-Laheedan said the measure was taken to provide opportunities for others including Umrah pilgrims to visit the Kingdom.
Al-Hussain said the department’s “Abshir” and “Muqeem” electronic services programs cover the issue and renewal of iqamas, issue and cancellation of re-entry visas and issue of exit-only visas. “We don’t charge any extra fees for Abshir and Muqeem except the fees for the various services.”
The Jawazat official was also asked whether it was possible for the department to issue iqamas that are valid for two years, to solve the problems faced by expatriate families. “We issue two-year iqamas to house servants,” he said.
Asked whether the Jawazat has a backup for its computer system if it is hacked or has other problems, he said: “Yes we have an alternative and have done everything possible to make our system secure.”
A caller from Dammam, who works for a government agency, asked whether his father could become his dependent when he retires. Al-Hussain advised him to present his case to the department’s studies and legal section, which would take care of it, provided it was genuine.
Explaining the responsibilities and activities of the department, he said it includes the issue and renewal of iqamas, exit/re-entry visas and final exit visas. It also handles sponsorship transfers, adding children as dependents on passports, activating the Abshir electronic services, and extension of visit visas.
He said matters related to huroob, or runaway workers, and sponsorship transfers must first be cleared by the Labor Ministry.
A Turkish expat, who could not get a residence permit for his seven-year-old child born in the Kingdom, was told to approach the Additions Section at the Jawazat after paying the required fines, which is SR500 for every year.
Another expatriate, whose iqama was not renewed by his sponsor for six years because the latter failed to pay his government dues, was told that he could get a re-entry or exit-only visa after paying the fine, which is SR500 for every year.
Another caller, Waqar Ahmed, raised the issue of an expatriate driver who faces legal action from a car rental company because someone forged his iqama and then rented two cars in his name. Al-Hussain advised him to approach the forgery department at the Jawazat. It would be solved only after security agencies conduct a criminal investigation, he said.
Al-Hussain answered the following questions from callers:
Can I get a visit visa for my grandfather?
This should be answered by the Foreign Ministry’s visa section.
Who is eligible for a visit visa in the Kingdom?
An expatriate worker’s wife and children. Sometimes, his or her mother and father are also allowed.
Can I convert my wife’s visit visa into permanent residence visa?
Yes it is possible but on certain conditions and should be approved by the Interior Ministry.
My mother is sick and my company is not allowing me a final exit visa. What should I do?
You have to present this complaint to the Labor Ministry.
My father has died. Can I get a permanent residence visa for my mother, who is old and sick, and has all her children living in the Kingdom?
It is possible, provided you present a request to the governorate and get the governor’s approval.
What is the status of the passport department’s move to put all services online?
Most services are now available online.
Can a visit visa be extended at this time?
Yes, but only until June 28, 2014.
‘Thank you, Arab News’
Following are some of the comments and compliments that we received from our readers on our Facebook page while Passport Department spokesman Col. Mohammed Hussain while taking calls from our readers on Wednesday as part of our reader service initiative:
Georgina Llabore: Thank you so much for this … You are giving a chance to those who don’t have any idea and are confused about Jawazat issues.
Mariza Belda: Please, Arab News, tell them to have an officer who can speak and explain issues to us in English.
Syed Ismail: Thank you. Good service.
Shamim Ahmed Khan: Good move.
Ali Asghar: I have tried four times him but could not reach him. The line was busy. Arab News, can you give me his mobile number?
Sikander Shaikh: I have dialled three times, but couldn’t reach him.
Monir Khan: Same thing happened with me.
Umar Farooq: This is really a great step by Jawazat and Arab News. Thank you, Col. Mohammed Al-Hussain.
Fuat Ekici: MashaAllah.
Majid Ali Khan: Bold step. Much appreciated.
Shahinsha Abu Suhaib: Shukran.
Jhamela Nague: MashaAllah.
Abdul Raheem: Good job.
Shakil Rayhan: Nice decision.
Muhammad Umar Farooq: Very nice step.
Gnew R Ereigrev: Thank you, Sir.
Akbar Hussain: Thanks a lot.
Dr. Muhammad Hasan Salam Khan: Wow! Awesome. MashaAllah.
Riyaz Ahmad: I’m an Indian from Jammu & Kashmir. I want a visa!
Masud Mondal: I like it. It is the need of the hour.
Rabeia Galmak Lidasan: I must inquire about the expiration of my iqama.
Jalima Mapada: Good job.
Harriz Penaranda: Very nice. Good job.
Leahcim Odivorp: Nice.
Shanto Mallick: Good.
Ishtiaq Khan: Excellent step.
Naz Shahid: MashaAllah. Great job. Great team.
Irfan Shaikh: Nice service.
Muhammad Latif: Good.
Javeed Khan: Nice way and responsible initiative.
Soby George Tvla: Very good.
Nasar Abbas Gondal: Really, it is a great decision. Thank you for taking care of expatriates.