The Ministry of Labour in Saudi Arabia has announced the introduction of a Labour Market Test for the application of new Block visas and a subsequent increase in visa application fees.
Labour Market Test
On 1st August 2016, the Ministry of Labour introduced a new labour portal and database named “Taqaat”. Employers are now required to first advertise the job roles locally before applying for new block visas.
This will require employers to advertise job roles locally before submitting an application for new Block visas. This measure will protect the local workforce population, ensuring that a non-Saudi national will only be hired when there is not a Saudi professional prepared and/or qualified for the role. The existing criteria for Block visas remain, including the “Saudisation” level.
Visa application Fees
An increase to government visa fees has also been approved and will significantly raise costs for both visitors and foreign employees living and working in the Kingdom. This will affect all visit visas, exit and re-entry visas. On the contrary, the government has stated that these increased fees will not affect individuals applying for a Hajj or Umrah visa.
Saudi Arabia is a very complex country in terms of immigration. Obtaining a work and residence permit includes out-of-country steps and several in-country processes. These changes will mainly affect the out-of-country steps, prior to the individual”s entry in the Kingdom.
Changes are expected to be in place by October 2016. Before this, companies operating in Saudi Arabia with foreign employees should take these changes into consideration when planning future assignments and/or renewals.
In particular, labour market testing may further extend the work authorisation process by a few weeks. As a consequence, employers should assess the workforce needs more in advance to respond to the additional processing times. This change will also increase the number of documents required for applying for new block visas, as evidence of job advertisement, interviews and post-interview rejection justification will be required.
In relation to the fees, we recommend that employers re-evaluate their budgets for immigration services and include them into new contract negotiations.
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