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ADVISORY FOR WORKERS SEEKING EMPLOYMENT IN SAUDI ARABIA

I.

Saudi sponsorship (Kifalat) system: A Saudi sponsor (Kafeel) is entitled

under the local laws to certain controls on his/her employees. Only the sponsor
can obtain work-permit, resident permit (iqama), final exit/ exit re-entry or any
other legal documents for his/her expatriate employee. Saudi sponsors usually
keep passports of their workers with them and provide only resident permits to
allow the workers to move around inside Saudi Arabia. The only legal way for an
expatriate worker to leave Saudi Arabia, if the sponsor does not co-operate, is
through labour courts, which may take several months.

Since all expatriate

workers are now finger-printed on arrival, it is not possible to leave Saudi Arabia
without sponsors clearance.

II

Free Visa:

There is no such category as free (Azad) visa. All work

visas include name of the sponsor/establishment. It is illegal to work with an


employer other than the sponsor.

It is also illegal to run independent

businesses/shops registered in the names of Saudi nationals (against some


monthly or annual payment). Expatriates can legally work only as employees of
their sponsors (unless they fall into the category of investors).

III

Domestic workers: The domestic workers are not covered under the Saudi

Labour Law.

House-drivers, house-boys, housemaids, agriculture workers,

shepherds, baby-sitter, house-nurse, cook (for house), ladies tailor, beauticians,


house cleaners, etc., have been categorized as domestic workers. There is no
fixed work-schedule/duty hours, provision for mid-term leave etc. for domestic
workers. The climatic conditions for shepherds/farm workers are extreme and
most Indian workers find them unbearable. Domestic workers are not entitled to
seek redressal of their work related disputes through Saudi Labour courts. A
domestic workers normal tenure is two years.

IV.

Escaping from work-place: A sponsor can report his/her employee run-

away (huroob), if the worker absents himself from work without permission
(work-strikes are illegal in Saudi Arabia). Once a worker is reported run-away,
his status becomes illegal and he cannot approach any Saudi authority for
redressal of his grievances. The only course left to a run-away worker is to
submit to the law of the land and report to the nearest deportation authority
(Tarheel). Obtaining requisite clearances (from the sponsor and other Saudi
authorities) may take the deportation authorities a couple of months and during
this time the run-away worker may have to stay in overcrowded deportation
centers. A detainee deported through deportation centre is banned from entering
Saudi Arabia for a period of five years (The ban may be extended to other GCC
countries in near future).

Leave/vacation:

Saudi labour law has provision of annual leave.

However, in practice, the sponsor can postpone the leave taking the plea of
functional requirements. Sanctioning Emergency leave to an employee depends
entirely on the subjective satisfaction/ state of relationship between the employee
and his/her sponsor. Since a large number of employees do not return to Saudi
Arabia after availing leave, most small establishments/individual employers retain
the visa cost, resident permit, medical insurance and other incidental expenses
incurred for recruiting the worker as security before allowing the worker to go on
leave.

VI

Termination of work contract:

A sponsor may not allow his employee

to leave Saudi Arabia before completing the contract (2/3 years). A sponsor can
legally claim all expenses incurred for recruitment to release his worker before
completion of contract term. Usually, the Saudi contracts do not include clause
for mid-term termination of contract (after due notice). Even where the mid-term
termination clause is there, the Saudi labour courts may postpone release of
worker on certain grounds (arrival of replacement, completion of an ongoing
project completes, etc.).

VII

Legal recourse:

A worker may approach Labour office/court against

violation of Saudi Labour Law, before he is reported run-away. However, the


legal process is slow and even implementation of court verdict may take a long
time.

VIII.

Recruiting agents: Workers should directly deal with Indian recruiting

agents authorized by MOIA and pay only the prescribe charges. Middlemen
should be avoided. They are advised to check the work visa & work contract
(salary and other conditions) carefully and should never leave India without
obtaining a copy of written work contract (signed both by the worker and
recruiting agent/representative of the sponsor) and preferably attested by
Embassy/Consulate General of India.

IX

Precautions: Bringing the following items into the country is an offence:

Drugs (it carries death penalty in Saudi Arabia)


(Certain kinds of medicines may be misunderstood as drugs and

therefore, bringing in any kind of medicine should be avoided)


ii

Alcoholic drinks.

iii

Non-Islamic religious symbols/photos/pictures/idols

iv

Obscene print/audio/vedio material

Vital information:

A worker should carry a copy each of the passport,

work-visa & work contract and also complete contact details of the sponsor,
recruiting agent(s), Embassy/Consulate of India in Saudi Arabia. The information
should also be available with the family of the worker in India.

XI

Saudi justice system:

Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country ruled in

accordance with the Shariat. Apart from the sentence for a crime (under public

rights), the convict also has to pay damages to the affected party (under private
rights) before he could be released.

XII

Assistance from Embassy/Consulate:

The

Embassy

may

be

approached by a worker for resolution of labour dispute with his/her sponsor.


Embassy/consulate officials try to persuade the sponsor for a reconciliatory
settlement. However, if the matter remains unresolved, a worker may have to
approach the concerned Saudi authorities/labour court.

It is not within the

purview of the Embassy/Consulate to direct a Foreign Employer/ Saudi


government authorities to grant leave, send a worker on exit or settle the dues.
Prospective workers are, therefore, advised to insist on provision of mid-term
termination (by giving a prior notice or depositing one/two months salary etc. in
lieu thereof ) in the work contract.

XIII

Transfer of sponsorship (Tanazul) and NOC: It is the prerogative of the

sponsor to grant transfer of sponsorship or provide NOC at the end of the


contract term.

Transfer of sponsorship and NOC, therefore, should be

negotiated between employee and employer.

Without NOC from sponsor, a

worker may not be allowed to return to Saudi Arabia before one year after
exiting.

XIV

Exit re-entry visa:

GCC countries are contemplating to implement a

measure to ensure that workers, who go to their countries on leave, return to


complete their contract terms. Workers leaving Saudi Arabia on exit re-entry
visa, therefore, may not be able to enter any GCC country if they fail to return to
work before the re-entry visa expire.