Saudi Government’s Imposition of Fees on Expats, a Burden Too Heavy to Bear

In an effort to promote indigenous workers in Saudi, the council has introduced multiple fees to discourage employment of expat workers. Starting July of this year, the government introduced a fees SR 100 per month to be paid by immigrant workers who have dependent staying with them in Saudi.

Council left no stones unturned to bring their policies in line with vision 2030 and Saudization. It has also imposed a fees SR 400 on Saudi nationals who employ expats and a rebated amount SR 300 if the proportion of expat and national workers is equal.

In year 2019, the Saudi employer has to pay SR 600 if majority of his employees are immigrants. If the number of Saudi local work-force equals expat workers then the fee shall be SR 500. Consequently, the respective fees shall increase to SR 800 for majority expat work-force employer, SR 700 for equal numbers of local and expat work-force and SR 400 for dependent per head by mid-2020.

A long-time immigrant worker named Bakhsh, has 12 children with him in the kingdom. After the introduction of this year on year increase in fees for dependent, he calculates a yearly expenditure of his dependent. In the first year, which is lowest of the fees that is imposed, he is liable to pay SR 14, 000. This will double next year and exponentially rise every year.

Staying for more than 40 years in Saudi, Bakhsh has never visited home. He does not own a business back home or have any other skill apart from working with his employer in Saudi. It is extremely difficult for him to move out. Many expats are forced to leave due to the impact of Saudization, while several others may voluntarily leave because of rising cost of living.

Bakhsh, his brothers and sons, who have lived in the Kingdom for 35 years or more, are now faced with the prospects of making their toughest decision in their life — leaving the Kingdom. The reason being the recent levy of dependent fees, which they cannot afford to pay, as they work as farmers with meager salaries.

Like Bakhsh, majority of expats too will have to make a call — either face the tough decision of paying the fees and work in multiple jobs, which is a burden for low-income expats, or go back to a country, by virtue of their passports, that they have visited occasionally or never seen in their lives and be strangers in their own countries. The decision becomes tougher with the fear that they would not be able to rebuild a life where parameters are different and unknown. That’s why many have suddenly woken up to the fact that there’s a need to understand the local laws and requirements of their native lands, such that it would enable them to fit in, if the need arises for them to leave the Kingdom.

Some expats, however, are implementing or have implemented their plan-B that includes sending their wives and children back home, risking separation and the social issues that come with it. This means most of the money spent in the Kingdom will now take flight outside in the form of remittances. Expats living with their families in an apartment will live together as forced bachelors leaving many vacant apartments, which will lead to prices going down, and a possible fall of revenue for the Saudi owner. The knock-on effect will also be on shops, malls, hotels, which could witness a fall in revenues too.

And for expats who have lived here for a long period of time, the quicker they adapt to the new situation the easier it will be for them if they decide to go back. It is very sad to see friends whom an expat has worked with and known leaving for home, putting an end to their professional life in Saudi Arabia. But as everything in life, a choice has to be made, however, tough.

An excerpt from Mahmoud Ahmad’s Article: Expat fees and tough personal decision

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