Saudi sponsors withholding expats passports could face 15 years in prison

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Saudi law: Sponsors withholding expat passports may face 15 years in jail.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan 14: In Saudi Arabia, sponsors who withhold an expatriate’s passport could potentially receive a prison sentence of up to 15 years along with a significant fine, according to a warning from Saudi lawyer Zyad Al Shaalan. Describing the act as a major crime falling under the category of human trafficking, Al Shaalan highlighted the severity of the penalties, emphasizing arrest for sponsors refusing to return passports. The lawyer shared this information on his TikTok account, emphasizing the legal consequences of such actions.

Saudi Arabia, with a population of approximately 32.2 million, is home to a sizable community of foreign workers. Recent initiatives by Saudi authorities aim to provide facilities for expatriates, allowing those departing on exit/re-entry visas to return until the expiration of their visas. The General Directorate of Passports announced in August that exit/re-entry visa holders can electronically extend their visas while abroad by paying related fees through platforms like Absher or Muqeem.

In the past few years, Saudi Arabia has prioritized labor market regulation and attractiveness improvement. Notably, major labor reforms introduced in 2020 significantly enhanced the sponsorship system. Effective the following year, these reforms facilitate job mobility and regulate exit and re-entry visa issuance for expatriate workers without requiring employers’ approval. Employee mobility provisions allow expatriate workers to transfer between employers upon the expiry of their work contracts without needing employer consent. Furthermore, exit and re-entry visa reforms enable expatriate workers to travel outside Saudi Arabia without requiring approval from their employers, provided they submit a formal request. These measures reflect the kingdom’s efforts to modernize and streamline its labor practices.

This news has been read 2194 times!

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