Concerns over Saudi visa limitation

Initiative to improve employment of Saudi nationals in private sector

NEWS, Business, Nationalisation

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Saudi businesses are increasingly opposing a decision to limit expat working visas to four year for firms rated “yellow” under the kingdom’s nationalisation employment program.

The Labour Ministry recently announced the decision, which will become effective from 25 October, in a bid to encourage companies in the lowest ranking to improve their employment of Saudi nationals in the private sector.

However, the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) has said the limit would be difficult to implement in the industrial, construction and service sectors, which depend on trained and experienced workers from abroad, Arab News reported.

JCCI member Ahmad Al Marbaie said the decision would create labour shortages and in the long-term would harm the nationalisation process.

Under the nationalisation program, called Nitaqat, businesses in Saudi Arabia are rated green, yellow or red according to their national-expat quota and are rewarded for being in the higher categories with benefits such as easier access to expat visas.

“There are sectors that cannot move to the green zone because they depend totally on skilled and specialised workers,” he said.

“Another problem is that the Saudi labour market recruits untrained workers who cannot operate modern machinery.”

He said it would be detrimental to factories that had to fire workers they had spent time and money training to replace them with locals who were “reluctant to do such jobs”.

“This will be our own loss since trained workers are hard to come by and are highly valued in other countries,” Al Marbaie said.

“Such a decision will affect our productivity, profitability and performance. We need these workers to stay in the kingdom for at least 10 years.” 

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