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Saudi Arabia announces conditions for new labor reforms set to improve kafala system

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Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development on Thursday announced the conditions under which expatriate workers in the Kingdom can benefit from the new job mobility reforms that aim to improve the kafala sponsorship system.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced plans to ease foreign workers’ contractual restrictions, which will take effect in March 2021.

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The new plans grant foreign workers the right to change jobs and leave the country without employers’ permission.

To benefit from the new reforms, the expatriate worker must have completed one year with their current employer from when they first entered the Kingdom, the ministry said in a statement.

The worker must also have a notarized work contract.

To receive approval to change jobs, the new employer must submit the job offer through the ministry’s Qiwa website. A notification will then be sent to the worker’s current employer requesting a transfer of services and stating a notice period, according to the ministry.

The new employer must ensure that their place of work meets the requirements of obtaining visas under Saudi Arabia’s current regulations.

The new employer must comply with the wage protection program, the documenting and digitizing program and the self-evaluation program.

The visa transfer fee will not include any additional charges and will not affect the status of issued visas, the ministry said.

The ministry also announced that workers will be eligible for a visa transfer without meeting any of the above-mentioned requirements if they fall under these conditions:

-If their current employer approves the transfer.

-If their current employer does not provide them with a notarized work contract three months after they first entered Saudi Arabia.

-If their current employer has not paid their wages for three consecutive months.

-If their current employer is absent due to travel, imprisonment, death, or other reasons.

-If the worker’s job permit or residency permit (iqama) expired.

-If the worker lodges a complaint about their employer’s involvement in a commercial cover-up.

-If the worker lodges a complaint about their employer’s involvement in human trafficking.

-If the current employer or their representative fails to attend two sessions of litigation during a legal dispute with the worker.

Foreign workers work at a construction site in Riyadh. (Reuters)
Foreign workers work at a construction site in Riyadh. (Reuters)

The new reforms come as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to diversify the economy and attract high-skilled workers to the country.

Saudi Arabia, which chairs the Group of 20 major economies (G20) this year, is also seeking to boost its private sector.

Read more:

Saudi Arabia to ease foreign workers’ restrictions under kafala system in March 2021

Saudi ministry clarifies after report on pending decision to abolish kafala system

Saudi Arabia set to abolish sponsorship system soon: Report