Saudi Arabia’s fees on expats’ dependents draw mixed reactions

:: Expatriates expressed concern and sadness over the decision to apply new fees on dependents of foreign workers in the Saudi Arabia.

The new policy came into effect on July 1.

The Saudi Cabinet passed a series of decisions last December, aimed to increase state revenues to offset the impact of the fall of oil prices. One of these decisions was to apply new fees on the dependents of foreign workers.

According to the decision, the fee will start at SR100 for each dependent per month and will increase to SR200 from July 2018, then SR300 in 2019 and SR400 in 2020.

The Passport Department said Sunday the fees should be paid in advance before the renewal of the residency permit or the issuance of an exit/re-entry visa for expat workers of all nationalities.

Mohammed Ali, a Sudanese sales employee living in Riyadh with his five-member family, said he was seriously thinking about sending his family back home, as these fees will eat up his salary and savings.

He expressed hope that the Saudi authorities would reconsider these fees in a country “we have loved and worked for.”

Hasan Ismail, another Sudanese national who works as an accountant in a private company, expressed similar concern over his future in the Kingdom. He said the fees would put more pressure on his finances.

“As far as I know, companies are not prepared to bear the fees on behalf of their foreign employees and they may possibly tell employees either to pay their dependents’ fees or leave,” he told Arab News.

With a heavy heart, Fatima Mohammed, a Sudanese housewife and a retired teacher, said she was prepared to pack up and return to her country after 25 happy years in the Kingdom. She said she would be leaving her husband in the Kingdom alone to provide a decent life for the family in Sudan.

Zakir Aazmi, an Indian worker who has lived in the Kingdom with his family for more than two decades, echoed these sentiments. He said that the dependent fee is likely to be a huge financial burden for expatriates living with their families in Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, he believes it will not generate the expected revenue as many expatriates will now be forced to return home or send back their dependents — as such, he predicts the policy will have an adverse effect on the local economy, particularly the housing sector.

Furthermore, there will be huge cut in spending, as remittances will increase with families back home, he added.

Ahsan Ali, a Pakistani expatriate, also expressed concern saying: “We have no option but to send family back home, even there are many like me thinking of returning home as the stay here has become a costly affair.

Dr. Majed Abdullah Al-Hedayan, a legal consultant and foreign direct investment (FDI) expert, told Arab News: “The application of fees on expatriate workers and their dependents, whether family members or domestic labor, is normal and applied in many countries of the world and the foreign worker recognizes the fact that the imposition of fees is beneficial in the provision of government services that are provided free of charge to citizens.”

“If we evaluate the fees compared to the value of services and facilities provided here, they will accept it even though it sounds difficult in the beginning,” he added.

Syed Hamid, a senior executive from Sri Lanka working in Riyadh said: “The unpreparedness to deal with the newly introduced levy on the dependents has caused worry which was evident at the airports also for those leaving on vacation.”

However, most expatriates appear to share the view that the benefits of living in the Kingdom outweigh the drawbacks of the new fee.

“We understand it will be a burden for expatriates with large number of dependents,” he added.

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