In a move welcomed by expatriates and businesses alike, the General Directorate of Passports (Jawazat) has lifted the three-year ban on re-entry for expatriates who previously overstayed their exit and re-entry visas.
Jawazat has issued a directive instructing all departments, land, sea, and airports to permit the entry of expatriates who failed to return before their exit and re-entry visas.
The new directive, effective January 16, 2024, opens the door for many foreign workers to return to Saudi Arabia. This marks a notable shift in policy and carries implications for foreign workers who previously faced a three-year ban for such lapses.
Saudi Arabia Lifts Exit Visa Ban
Effective Tuesday, January 16, the recent directive lifted the three-year ban on foreign workers who left the Kingdom on exit and reentry visas but failed to return within the stipulated timeframe.
The ban had been implemented in response to demands from businessmen who sought measures to prevent the reentry of individuals not adhering to the visa timelines.
However, the new directive balances these concerns with the needs of expatriates, many of whom may have overstayed due to unforeseen circumstances.
The lifting of the ban allows qualified workers to resume their employment in Saudi Arabia, potentially boosting the economy and providing businesses with access to talent.
Exit Re-Entry Visa Process and Requirements
While lifting the ban, Jawazat has re-emphasized the conditions for issuing exit and re-entry visas. These include the
- Clearance of traffic fines: Outstanding traffic violations must be settled before applying for a new visa.
- No visa discrepancies: Applicants should have no previous visa issues resulting in the cancellation of an unused visa.
- No valid existing visa: Applicants should not hold a current valid visa for Saudi Arabia.
- Physical presence in Saudi Arabia: Applicants must be physically present within the Kingdom at the time of applying.
- Biometric registration: Applicants must provide fingerprints for visa processing.
Additional conditions comprise the 90-day or more validity of the worker’s passport and the requirement for the individual’s fingerprint to whom the visa is issued.
Ban Aimed to Discourage Visa Overstays
The ban, previously implemented upon request from businesses, aimed to discourage overstays by exit visa holders. Businesses argued that such occurrences led to financial losses due to the need to renew work permits, residency permits (iqamas), and return tickets for non-compliant workers.
Moreover, unfilled positions caused by overstays disrupted business operations and affected the stability of the job market.
By streamlining the re-entry process and clarifying visa requirements, the Jawazat seeks to ensure a smooth transition for returning workers. This decision benefits both expatriates seeking renewed opportunities and businesses requiring skilled manpower.