Saudi to only issue one-year work visas to foreigners

The change comes ahead of an expected increase to the work permit fee

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour has announced it will be reducing the duration of work visas issued to foreign employees at private sector firms.

Under the change, employees will now only be issued work visas with a validity of one year from a previous validity period of two years, the ministry said in a statement to Saudi Press Agency.

Domestic workers and foreigners working at government agencies will still be granted two-year visas.

It was unclear if the cost for visa issuance and renewal would remain the same or be halved following the change.

“The minister’s decision is consistent with article 11 of the Labour Code, which stipulates that the minister may take measures that will ensure the improvement of the performance of the labour market,” the ministry said.

The decision comes ahead of an expected increase to the work permit fee for foreigners that will come into effect next year.

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 is expected to increase to SAR300-400 ($80-$107) per foreign worker by 2018 and SAR700-800 ($187-$213) by 2020.

Read: Saudi denies increase to work permit fee for foreigners

More broadly, the kingdom has been working to reduce the unemployment rate among Saudi citizens by restricting foreigners from working in some roles.

Read: Saudis to tighten curbs on foreign workers in local jobs push

Reports last month suggested the ministry had suspended visa renewals for expats in jobs expected to be filled by Saudi nationals including in human resources and as clerks in receptions, hotels and hospitals.

Read: Saudi suspends work permit renewals for foreigners in certain roles