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

Expatriate families are seen at the Jeddah Corniche in this photo taken during Eid al-Fitr on June 28, 2017. Many foreign workers have expressed concern that they may not be able to afford the fee for dependents that is now required by the Saudi government. (SPA file photo)
Updated 06 July 2017

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

RIYADH: 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.

Middle East's love affair with the moon and space

Updated 26 min 54 sec ago

Middle East's love affair with the moon and space

  • The UAE and Saudi Arabia are inaugurating a new era of Arab space exploration
  • Saudi Prince Sultan entered the history books when he journeyed into space on Discovery in 1985

RIYADH: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before schools were due to start after summer vacation. 

Fifty years ago today, Saudis joined the world in gathering around TV sets to watch a live broadcast of what was once thought impossible: American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took man’s first steps on the moon. 

Armstrong famously said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” True to his words, advancement in space has skyrocketed since the Apollo 11 mission, opening up doors for space scientists to reach for the stars.

It was only 16 years later that Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman became the first Arab, Muslim — and royal — astronaut to travel into space. Before traveling to Houston for the Apollo mission anniversary, he sat down with Arab News in an exclusive interview to talk about his NASA mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in June 1985.

Prince Sultan, recently appointed chairman of the Saudi Space Commission, was only 13 when he watched the historic moon landing on TV. The picture quality might have been poor and the sound garbled, but footage of the landing captured his imagination.

“Humans made airplanes and made advances in industry, but for humans to leave their own planet, that’s really something else,” Prince Sultan told Arab News. 

Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old. “It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

It has been more than 30 years since space last had an Arab visitor (Syria’s Muhammed Faris became the second Arab in space on board USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987). But this September, the first Emirati will become the latest Arab visitor when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS).

Hazza Al-Mansoori will travel to space on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft that is due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.