People sit at a cafe in a mall in the Saudi capital Riyadh on June 4, 2020, after it reopened following the easing of some restrictions to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: AFP

Saudi Arabia: Automatic extension of expats’ residence permits

Earlier this month, Saudi king ordered extending validity of expired visas for migrant workers abroad

Cairo: Saudi Arabia will automatically extend residence permits of expatriates eligible for a recent royal decree, the country’s passport authorities have said.

Earlier this month, Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz ordered extending validity of expired exit and return visas for migrant workers abroad for another three months free of charge.

The move came after those expatriates have been unable to return to the kingdom over suspension of air travel due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

The Saudi General Directorate of Passports said it would coordinate with the country’s National Information Centre, an affiliate of the Interior Ministry, for the automatic extension of expatriates’ residence permits without the need to apply.

“The Kingdom’s government has issued several directives, including the categories exempted from fees and fines covering expatriates with valid iqamats who left the kingdom on exit-return visas, but could not come back and their iqamats or visas have expired,” chief of the General Directorate of Passports Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Abdulaziz Al Yahya said.

The exempted categories, added the official, comprises expatriates who hold exit-return visas or final exit visas but could not use them as well as foreigners who came to the kingdom to visit relatives or business, but could not leave.

Foreigners make up 10.5 million of Saudi Arabia’s total population of 34.8 million.

International flights to and from the kingdom have been halted since March as part of measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19.