Many nations had sought extension of 3-month grace period

Saudi Arabia has ruled out extension of the three-month grace period that will end on July 3 for expatriate workers to get their work and residency papers corrected before the enforcement of the Nitaqat’ Saudisation scheme begins.

At a meeting of heads of foreign missions and labour counsellors at embassies called by the Saudi Labour Ministry at Riyadh on Saturday night, Ministry officials said it was impossible to extend the three-month grace period, Saudi media reported.

The meeting was attended by senior diplomats especially from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines, which are the largest labour exporters to Saudi Arabia.

The huge majority of illegal expats are from these countries.

The diplomats had complained that the grace period was too short but the Labour Ministry ruled out any extension. Deputy Labour Minister Moufarrej bin Saad Al-Hagbani also warned that after the grace period ended illegal workers would be slapped with a two-year jail term and 1,00,000 Saudi riyal in penalty.

Insurance cover

In a major development, Mr. Al-Hagbani announced that all expatriate workers could get the benefit of social insurance of the State-run General Organisation for Social Insurance (GOSI).

Retired and incapacitated employees and dependents of deceased employees are entitled to monthly pension.

Until now, the GOSI registration had been compulsory for Saudi employees and optional for non-Saudis.

Non-Saudi workers could register with the GOSI only with the permission of the employers, who very often refused the permission as they would have to pay monthly contributions.

Each employee has to pay nine per cent of the monthly basic pay plus housing allowance as the monthly contribution and the employer has to pay an equal sum.

The Minister said under the new GOSI scheme, which took immediate effect, expat workers could register with the insurance scheme without the permission of their employers.

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