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The New Arab

Saudi expat work visas reduced to one year

Saudi Arabia wants to reduce its reliance on 11 million foreign workers [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 October, 2017

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Saudi Arabia has set a new limit on expat work visas under reforms to boost the national labour market and curb its high rate of unemployment amid low oil prices.
Employment visas issued for foreign private sector workers in Saudi Arabia will only be valid for one year, down from two years.

Visas issued to government and domestic workers will be exempt from the new guidelines, the order issued by Minister of Labour and Social Development Dr Ali Al-Ghafis said.

The move is part of efforts to curb the rate of unemployment in the kingdom, which rose to 12.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017, continuing its steady climb as the economy grapples with the fallout of low oil prices.

The rising number of unemployed highlights the immense challenge Riyadh faces in meeting pledges to create jobs for its nationals amid a protracted economic slowdown.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform plan to diversify the economy beyond oil aims to cut the unemployment rate to seven percent by 2030, while reducing the kingdom's reliance on its 11 million foreign workers.

One measure touted in July was to ban expats from working at grocery stores. The Saudi Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD) released a draft decision in which jobs at grocery stores will become 100 percent 'Saudised'.

Another law announced by the minister on Sunday decreed that foreign mothers of Saudi children and non-Saudi children of Saudi women will also be able to work in professions previously reserved for Saudi nationals.

Three Shura Council members also recommended a change to citizenships laws to allow non-Saudi children of Saudis to obtain citizenship, the report added.

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