Cairo: A sponsor, who withholds an expatriate’s passport in Saudi Arabia, could face up to 15 years in prison and a hefty fine, a Saudi lawyer has warned.
“If your sponsor refused to return your passport, this is considered a major crime warranting arrest,” said lawyer Zyad Al Shaalan.
He added that the act is categorised among human trafficking crimes under Saudi law.
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“It is punishable by up to 15 years in jail and a maximum fine of SR1 million or one of both penalties,” he added on his TikTok account.
Saudi Arabia, a country of around 32.2 million people, is home to a large community of foreign workers.
Saudi authorities have recently introduced a set of facilities for expatriates. Foreign residents leaving on exit/re-entry visas can now return to Saudi Arabia until the last day of their valid visas.
The General Directorate of Passports in August said exit/re-entry visa holders can also have their visas extended electronically while they are outside Saudi Arabia after paying related fees via the Absher platform or Muqeem portal.
In recent years, the kingdom has sought to regulate the labour market and boost its attractiveness.
In 2020, Saudi Arabia introduced major labour reforms, drastically improving its sponsorship system.
The reforms, which went into effect in the ensuing year, allow job mobility and regulate the exit and re-entry visa issuance for expatriate workers without employers’ approval.
Employee mobility allows expatriate workers to transfer between employers upon the expiry of the binding work contract without the employer’s consent.
The exit and re-entry visa reforms, meanwhile, allow expatriate workers to travel outside Saudi Arabia without the employers’ approval after submitting a request.