Manual issuance of visas for house workers halted

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The Ministry of Labor has halted the manual acceptance or issuance of domestic worker visas amid several reforms aimed at curbing high employee turnover rates and protecting the rights of domestic workers.

Under the new decision, which took effect Saturday, applications for hiring domestic labor will be submitted exclusively online through the ministry’s Musaned system.

The new system will also unify recruitment fees at SR2,000, much to the relief of countless Saudi families that had reportedly been duped into paying as much as SR20,000 by recruitment agencies to hire maids and drivers.

Saad Al-Baddah, chairman of the National Recruitment Committee (NRC) at the Saudi Council of Chambers, confirmed the new measure would “increase transparency and ensure a hassle-free hiring process.”

Under the previous manual system, which allowed applicants to submit requests for hiring manpower at Labor Ministry offices, many workers would eventually run away for alleged nonpayment of salaries and long working hours.

Several employers would, however, deny these allegations, but authorities would have no way of knowing who was right.

“Going electronic is bound to reduce the number of complaints and grievances voiced by expat workers and hiring losses incurred by Saudi employers,” he said.

Labor-exporting countries have become increasingly reluctant to send their nationals to the Kingdom amid a large volume of controversial grievances.

Indonesia, a major labor-exporting country, has stopped sending workers, while the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India and other countries are involved in discussions with their Saudi counterparts to come up with mechanisms and guarantees to protect the rights of their workers.

The exclusive Web portal, www.musaned.gov.sa, contains detailed information for various services, from applying for driving licenses to hiring drivers.

The website also contains a link for lodging complaints and reporting violations, while also explaining the rights and responsibilities of both employee and employer. The Labor Ministry issued 714,000 visas for domestic workers in 2013 and 220,000 visas for Indian workers up until Ramadan this year.

Ahmed Al-Fuhaid, undersecretary at the Labor Ministry, recently told Arab News that the ministry would come up with mechanisms for protecting the rights of both workers and employers.

“The ministry set up a 24-hour call center, which operates in eight foreign languages, for workers to voice their grievances and lodge complaints,” he said.

 
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