Hundred of expats queued in Saudi passport offices yesterday on the first day of the kingdom’s three-month amnesty for visa violators.
Passport offices have been given additional staff to cope with the expected increase, with Makkah region in particular expected to see the largest number of applicants.
In order to apply, illegal workers must go on the Ministry of Interior’s website and book an appointment in the passport section using their residence ID and date of birth.
While those overstaying on haj or umrah visas can go directly to exit points and leave the kingdom.
Embassies are offering assistance and temporary travel documents for their nationals that are undertaking the process.
However, as the amnesty takes effect there have also been reports of confusion and middlemen seeking to make a profit.
One reported issue is that appointments are based on having a valid residency permit and access to a registered mobile number to receive instructions, but those without valid documentation are unable to maintain SIM cards to allow them to receive the text message.
Thousands of foreign workers who have been reported as absconders by employers and possess expired residency permits are also unable to access the electronic service, according to Saudi Gazette.
A separate electronic system may be established to handle these cases, sources told the publication.
There were also reports of fraudulent brokers offering to help residency law violators rectify their status when the amnesty only allows them to leave the country with the potential to return legally at a later date.
Ethiopian Consul General in Jeddah Wubishet Dimis told Saudi Gazette that many of his countrymen were approaching the consulate for clarifications about what the amnesty allowed.
Earlier this week, the director of the passport department, major general Solaiman Al-Yahya revealed that expats leaving the country will be fingerprinted to make sure that have no criminal record.
He said a crackdown on illegal expats would begin as soon as the amnesty ended with the Ministry of Labour and Social Development to deploy about 8000 inspectors, according to the publication.
Any expat caught working for a company that is not his or her orginal sponsor after the amnesty will be fined SAR50,000 ($13,333) and the establishment will be fined SAR100,000 ($26,666) and prevent from recruitment for five years.
Visa violators in general also face fines ranging from SAR15,000 to SAR100,000 and prison terms that can be longer than 10 years.