Foreign Workers: KSA to scrap controversial sponsorship system

Saudi Arabia might abolish its decades-old system of sponsorship in the first half of the next year, giving one million expatriate workers the freedom to secure exit and re-entry visas and get recruited without a sponsor’s approval.

Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development will make the official announcement in this regard next week, Saudi Gazette reported on Tuesday.

The historic initiative is aimed at improving the contractual relationship between expatriate workers and their employers, it said.

The sponsorship system, which has been in force for around seven decades, will be replaced by a work contract that regulates the relationship between employers and foreign workers.

The system, also known as the kafala, ties workers to their employers, or sponsors, who are responsible for the employees’ visa and legal status.

The abolition is part of other initiatives that seek to improve the quality of life of expatriates, especially for housing and entertainment. The move would be the latest in a series of economic reforms being carried out in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, said the report.

With the abolition of the system, the foreign workers will also have freedom of movement as per their work contract.

Under the sponsorship system, a worker is obligated to work for his sponsor, and they cannot work for another employer unless the sponsorship is formally transferred.

According to the Gazette report, the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources was expected to announce yesterday the major features of this initiative to improve the relationship between the expatriate workers and their employers. But it was postponed.

Saudi Arabia was originally supposed to announce the abolition of the sponsorship system during the first quarter of 2020, but it got delayed due to the pandemic.

The abolition of the sponsorship system comes as the step after the introduction of Special Privilege Residency Permit.


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