Businesses urge govt to scrap exit/re-entry visa

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Prominent business executives have called on the government to scrap the exit and re-entry visa system, saying it would make Saudi Arabia a more attractive place for foreign investors and skilled foreign workers.

“The system of having exit re-entry visas is creating unnecessary hassle. The Kingdom must seriously consider scrapping this system like in other GCC countries such as Bahrain and the UAE,” said Irshad Cader, a business executive in Jeddah, on Tuesday.

“As long as expats have valid iqamas, they should be able to move freely in and out of the Kingdom. Unless an iqama holder stays away more than six months, he must be allowed to enter the Kingdom without any issues. This will encourage more qualified expats to work in the Kingdom,” he said.

Akbar Batcha, another business executive, welcomed the plan to issue five-year resident permits. He also supported the call to scrap the exit re-entry system, at least for business leaders, investors and professionals who travel abroad frequently.

He said the five-year iqama system would help Saudi Arabia collect a huge amount in fees. “If you multiply SR5,000 by 10 million expats in the Kingdom, it will be a fabulous amount,” he said, adding that the system would encourage expatriates to spend a substantial portion of their earnings in the Kingdom.

“According to one report, foreign remittances of expats rose in the first nine months of this year compared to the previous year. This report should encourage the government to adopt expat-friendly decisions such as the five-year iqama to increase their spending in the Kingdom,” he told Arab News.

Cader also proposed a salary-based sponsorship system so that expatriates who earn a certain minimum monthly income would be eligible to sponsor their families. “For example, an expat who earns a salary of SR10,000 must be allowed to bring his family over irrespective of his profession,” he said.

 
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