Image Credit: Shutterstock

Cairo: An expatriate cannot obtain a final exit visa in Saudi Arabia without holding a valid iqama or a residency permit, a Saudi lawyer has said.

“No expat can get a final exit visa issued until he/she renews the iqama,” lawyer Zyad Al Shalaan said in a TikTok video.

He was answering a query if an expat whose iqama was expired two years ago can still obtain a final exit visa.

However, the same lawyer contended that holding an expired iqama in Saudi Arabia is not a reason for arrest.

“A policeman is not authorised to arrest a foreign resident because of the iqama expiry,” Al Shalan previously said.

He explained that failure to renew the iqama in due time is automatically punishable by a fine, unless there is another reason than the document expiry for arresting the holder.

A fine of SR500 is imposed on the expatriate who fails to obtain the resident ID in a maximum of 90 days after entering the kingdom.

The Saudi General Directorate of Passports has said that a medical test is among the requirements for a foreigner to be issued a resident ID via the government platform Absher or Muqeem portal for his/her employer after also paying the related fees.

Expatriates in the kingdom can get three-month residency permits with a renewal option for the same period, and they can save a digital copy of the iqama on their smartphones under a system launched in 2021.

The quarterly renewal of iqama allows the expatriate to pay for the dependent’s fee on a quarterly basis too.

According to a government payment system, the iqama fee can be paid on a quarterly- or biannual basis.

Saudi Arabia, a country of around 32.2 million people, is home to a large community of foreign workers.

Foreigners make up around 13.4 million or 41.5 per cent of the kingdom’s overall population, according to a recent census.

Saudi authorities 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.