The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has extended the validity of expired iqamas (residence permits), as well as exit and re-entry visas of expatriates who have been outside the kingdom for three months – at no cost.
The iqamas of expatriates inside the kingdom – as well as the visas of visitors who are in the kingdom and whose visa validity expired during the period of suspension of entry and exit from the kingdom – will also be extended for three months without any charge, reports the Saudi Gazette.
The validity of final exit visas – as well as exit and re-entry visas issued for expatriates, who are in the kingdom but were not used during the lockdown period – will be extended for three months without any fee, the Saudi Press Agency reported quoting an official source at the Saudi Ministry of Interior.
The beneficiaries of the King's order include all expatriates who are outside the kingdom on exit and re-entry visas, which expired during the lockdown period and after the lifting of the lockdown.
These expatriates are not in a position to return to the kingdom due to the enforcement of the suspension of international flights and a temporary ban on entry to and exit from the kingdom.
Bangladeshis, who had come home for vacation but could not go back because of flight suspensions and expired re-entry visas, will also get the benefits.
The beneficiaries include expatriates who are still in the kingdom after the issuance of final exit visas or exit and re-entry visas but could not travel because of the suspension of entry and exit from the kingdom.
"The declaration of the Saudi government has come in the wake of a continuous effort made by the Bangladesh government, through diplomatic channels, to extend the visa validity. Now, our workers who have come for vacation will be able to go to Saudi Arabia," said, Nasreen Jahan, joint secretary (Mission wing) to the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry.
Saudi interior ministry sources said these measures were taken as part of the continuous efforts made by the Saudi government to mitigate the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic on individuals – as well as on private sector establishments and investors, economic activities in the kingdom – following the adoption of the preventive measures to contain the spread of the pandemic.
According to the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), around 1.5 lakh migrants who have come from different destination countries remain stranded in the country amid the pandemic. Around 1.2 lakh of them are from Middle Eastern countries.
Additionally, around one lakh visas of Bangladeshi workers are now pending in different Middle Eastern countries – including Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, general secretary of Baira, said, "It is a good gesture from a destination country like Saudi Arabia that they have extended the validity of re-entry visas. But still, there is no flight between the countries."
"If we cannot control Covid-19 transmission, our workers will not be able to go to Saudi Arabia. The country will not allow us," he added.
Around 22 lakh Bangladeshis are working in Saudi Arabia, according to an unofficial estimate.