Saudi Arabia will now extend new work visas for expatriates in private sector firms for two years instead of one year without any additional fees, the ministry of Labor and Social Development revealed this week.
The extension of the time limit also covers old visas, local media reported.
Companies can also cancel old visas and issue new visas for two years if the visa requirements are still valid, the ministry said.
The move comes after the kingdom announced in 2017 that it would be reducing the duration of work visa for expats from two years to one year.
An exemption was granted to domestic workers and foreigners working at government agencies, who continued to receive two-year visas.
The latest change aims to address the “practical operational aspects facing private sector enterprises” and help them to “overcome obstacles and stimulate the private sector”, the ministry said.
The kingdom has introduced several new labour regulations in recent years in a bid to increase employment among Saudi citizens.
Since November 2012, the kingdom has charged SAR200 ($53) a month for each foreign worker at private sector companies where the number of expatriates exceeds Saudis.
This fee increased to SAR300-400 ($80-$107) per foreign worker in 2018 and will rise to SAR700-800 ($187-$213) by 2020.
More recently, the country has imposed job restrictions in 12 retail roles as part of which those facilities will have to ensure that at least 70 per cent of their staff are Saudi nationals.
The regulation was first announced in January last year and implemented in a phased manner.
The first phase came into force in September and applied to automobile and motorbike showrooms and shops selling items including ready-made clothing for men and children, home and office furniture, household goods and utensils.
The second phase beginning on November 9 applied to electrical and electronic appliances, watches and glasses shops.
Meanwhile the third and final phase took effect earlier this week, on January 7, and covers shops selling medical devices and equipment, construction materials, auto spare parts, confectionery and ‘carpets of all kinds’.
Local reports have indicated up to 1.22 million jobs held by foreigners could be affected by the new rules.