Transport companies have requested the Ministry of Labor to issue them seasonal visas for bus drivers during Umrah seasons. The companies argue that they experience a severe shortage of drivers during the Umrah season that disrupts their partnerships with tourism and Umrah companies.
"The ministry only issues seasonal visas for Haj and bans them for Umrah in order to encourage the nationalization of the work force. But this has resulted in a shortage of bus drivers," Marwan Al-Zubaidi, secretary of Car Syndicate, told a local newspaper.
He said that for each 400 job vacancies announced every season, only 12 Saudis apply. He said companies had announced these jobs frequently in newspapers and on TV channels, but they were still forced to recruit and train expatriates already living in Saudi Arabia.
Abdullah Alawi, a transport company owner, said businessmen requested the ministry to at least extend the period of the seasonal Haj visa but their request met with refusal.
"The ministry said that if it extended it, it wouldn't be seasonal anymore," Abdullah said.
Abdurrahman Andijani, head of the transportation department in the Ministry of Haj, said the problem is not only with Saudization. The Ministry of Labor does not have in its regulations any mention of "seasonal Umrah visa."
He said that his ministry can only help the transport companies by writing to the Ministry of Labor in support of the companies.