Expats in Saudi advised to steer clear of passport ‘expediters’

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Expats in Saudi Arabia have been advised this week to use an e-service introduced by the kingdom’s Passport Department to prevent them from being “fleeced” by outlets offering passport dealings.

The service, named “Abshir,” is a move to prevent expats from being conned by “middlemen and expediters,” to rectify their status as expatriates at passport and labor offices, The Saudi Gazette reported on Wednesday.

Expatriate workers are rushing to rectify their legal status during the grace period that will end on July 3. Before this deadline, expats must get their work and residency papers corrected before the enforcement of the Saudization (Nitaqat) scheme begins.

The new e-service provides online issuing and renewal of residence permits, issuing exit-reentry visas and exit visas, the Gazette reported.

The service was initiated by Interior Minister Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef al-Saud and its main purpose is to help people in finalizing their issues online other than the need to be present at one of the offices.

The e-service charges only government fees to rectify the status of expatriates, said Passport Department spokesman Ahmad al-Luhaidan.

“We are not responsible for any other fees charged by middlemen,” passport department spokesman Luhaidan told the Saudi Gazette.

Some 500,000 people are expected to have benefited from these online services so far, he said.

On the other hand, a middleman has argued that the large amounts charged are due to the tough task of getting the work done for expatriates.

“Lately people have been complaining about the high fees we charge, but they do not take into consideration the long hours we spend waiting in long queues at passport and labor offices,” Abdulrahman al-Jabri Told Saudi Gazette.

According to Jabri, the standard charges range between 1,500 to 2,000 riyals per service, in case the process requires more effort, the customers are then charged a higher price.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Grand Mufti said last week at a Friday sermon that middle men and expatriates have previously caused disruption to the government’s task of rectifying the status of undocumented workers.

He described the money earned in this manner as forbidden or poorly invested.

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