The Ministry of Labor warned companies yesterday that it was taking a zero-tolerance approach toward those failing to transfer the sponsorship of their new employees.
Private firms will be penalized if they break the law, said spokesman of the Ministry of Labor Hattab Al-Enezi. The Cabinet has instructed the Ministry of Labor to inspect facilities and investigate irregularities. Foreigners involved in such illegal practices would be arrested and deported. The new law also applies to runaway workers, employers of illegal workers, and Saudis involved in cover up businesses.
Al-Enezi's comments come in the wake of a number of expatriates complaining that they face increasing problems having their sponsorship transferred.
“Expatriate employees will also be punished if they work for other businesses. The labor office's inspectors are regularly checking on companies to ensure they hire expatriate employees with transferred sponsorship,” he added.
The papers needed for a sponsorship transfer include a letter from the new sponsor certified by the local chamber of commerce and industry, a copy of the original residence permit (iqama), and a copy of the passport. The expatriate employee also has to fill in a form at the labor office and pay SR 2,000.
Expatriates say they are having increasing difficulty getting the process done. Some say their previous employees are also to blame for delaying the paperwork.
Others cannot have their sponsorship transferred because their previous firms fall into the Red Zone of the Nitaqat system.
Ahmad Hussain, who works as a secretary for a construction company in Jeddah, is under the sponsorship of another firm as a student. “I have a big problem. I am currently working for a private sector company, but my company cannot transfer my sponsorship because it is in the Red category.”
Many expatriates fear losing their jobs. They want to remain in Saudi Arabia. “I do not want to leave Saudi Arabia. I was born in Jeddah and have spent my whole my life in the Kingdom.
However, I'm having difficulty transferring my sponsorship to my employer,” said a Syrian resident who works for a private sector company.
According to Ali Al-Shemaisi, a human resources manager for a major real estate company, many companies in the Kingdom do not want to transfer the sponsorship of their expatriate employees because they want to dismiss them and hire Saudis instead.
“In the past, private sector companies could easily transfer the sponsorship of their foreign employees. However, the current situation is different, the private sector focuses on specific occupations when hiring foreign employees; and there are many companies that need to increase the percentage of Saudis to meet the requirements of the Nitaqat program,” he added.