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Saudi Arabia

Passport Department agents make hay

Many expatriates here are complaining that Saudi agents have raised their fees from SR 500 to SR 2,000 in some cases to renew their residency permits.
The agents say they are charging the higher amount because they are in demand from illegal workers trying to correct their status by July 3, the end of the three-month grace period announced by the government. Mostafa Shaaban, a Syrian resident working in the private sector, said: "I have to pay SR 2,000 to an agent to renew my son's iqama (residency permit). I have been paying SR 750 to renew my iqama over the past few years. All agents are pretending that they have received many requests to renew iqamas and transfer sponsorships."
Expatriates often use agents to deal with the Passport Department to save time and effort, even though it costs them more money. Private sector companies also depend on agents to expedite procedures for their expatriate employees.
Mohammed Nawaf, who has been working as an agent for five years, told Arab News: "There are many factors determining the fees of agents. Agents are under extreme pressure to sort out many iqama renewals before the end of the three-month grace period."
"Agents' fees are not fixed but change according to the circumstances. But these fees can exceed SR 1,000 in many cases," he added.
Mustafa Aziz, an Egyptian resident who works for a construction company in Jeddah, said: "In spite of the high fees of agents, their role is essential in facilitating iqama services in Saudi Arabia. They can provide all necessary services related to the Passport Department quickly."
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of expatriates have been flocking to the Passport Department in Jeddah to sort out their papers. Passport Department offices have been working extra hours, with more staff, to help expatriates, according to a local newspaper.

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