(MENAFN - Arab News) A sponsors' ability to renew iqamas (residency permits) has a direct impact on the living conditions of many expatriates in Saudi Arabia.
When the commercial register expires of the sponsor's company expires, the iqamas of their expatriate employees cannot be renewed. This causes financial problems and makes life difficult for them.
Many government schools do not admit foreign pupils. This year the Ministry of Education issued a circular letter to schools, banning the new-semester admission of foreign pupils above 8 years of age in government schools. Private schools do enroll expatriates' sons and daughters but applicants have to present a valid iqama.
Abdulaziz Salem, an Egyptian who works at an advertising company in Jeddah, is unable to travel and faces financial problems because his residency document expired a year ago. He needs a valid iqama to access his bank account where his company deposits his salary.
"My bank account was suspended by the bank because I could not supply a valid residency permit. My sponsor promised he would solve the issue soon but said it would take time. I am waiting as I have many financial obligations, including house rent."
Saleh Al-Haj, a Sudanese expatriate working in Jeddah, said he is "suffering while waiting" for the last four months for his residency papers to be renewed. "The sponsor is traveling and the situation has largely affected my life. My financial obligations are pressing me."
In a previous statement, the Ministry of Labor said a worker whose sponsor is delaying the renewal of his papers should officially complain. If the sponsor failed to meet stipulations in the contract, the worker is entitled to file an official complaint to the Complaints Department at the Labor Office in the region.
The department then will convene a session that includes both parties. If the sponsor failed to show up or fulfill his obligations, the case would be referred to the Office's Preliminary Committee. They would issue a verdict, said ministry spokesman Hattab Al-Enizi. If none of the parties appealed the verdict within a month, it would be final. If both or one of them did, the case would be referred to the Higher Commission, which decision is considered to be final.
Many expatriates with expired residency permits fear the effect on their medical insurance and that they would face problems getting medical treatment. To reassure them, a former member of the insurance committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ibrahim Yousuf Al-Raml, said the validity of health insurance policies is not linked to the validity of residency permits.
"The only case where an employee cannot use the medical insurance is if the employer canceled his policy or failed to renew it. As long as the policy is valid, the worker can use it, even if the residency permit is expired," said Al-Raml.