Can they keep your passport but issue an iqama ? Is this legal ?

My sponsor says it is the law in Saudi that they keep my passport but they will issue me an Iqama.
They also said that whenever I need to travel I can just ask for my passport and pay the $60 travel visa....
Is holding ones passport legal in the kingdom ?

Most of them do it.  I've never had a problem.

Hi, Alliecat you think that it's applicable for touristic travel ? and as many time that you want ?

Abu_Adel :

Hi, Alliecat you think that it's applicable for touristic travel ? and as many time that you want ?

Touristic travel?? You MUST be kidding! :lol:

But if you're referring to Umrah or whatever, people keep their own passports. 

It's only if you work here/are sponsored here.  Not for everybody, probably. 

The only thing you can really be sure of in KSA is that you can't be sure of anything! ;)

Alliecat :

The only thing you can really be sure of in KSA is that you can't be sure of anything! ;)

Perfect :lol:

The passport thing also applies to family, or at least in some cases. I have to leave my passport with the company as well but if I want to go anywhere they take my iqama and give me a letter saying they have it basically along with my passport

Alliecat :

Touristic travel?? You MUST be kidding! :lol:

But if you're referring to Umrah or whatever, people keep their own passports. 

It's only if you work here/are sponsored here.  Not for everybody, probably. 

The only thing you can really be sure of in KSA is that you can't be sure of anything! ;)

Pfff Alie! Touristic i mean outside AROUND KSA : Bahrain, Jordan, ....

So does that mean it is okay to work for a company that issues you an iqama but keeps your passport (unless you decide to travel and then they give it to you for that purpose) ?
I want to make the right decision before accepting the job.
Thanks.

Yes, this is the KSA law.

I have objection on $60 visa fee they are asking. Most of the companies here give an exit re-entry free of charge at least once a year.

Hi saharadesert - Most of the companies keep the passport with themselves and give you the IQAMA. However, i dont think so that there is any kind of law like this. Becoz as far as my company is concerened it was optional for us to keep the passport with us or with the company. So hence definitely not a law.

Yeh it is perfectly fine to work for those companies as almost 99.99% companies will retain your passport against iqama.

its ur Passport, but u cant keep it with u, Its KSA rules

danish luv :

its ur Passport, but u cant keep it with u, Its KSA rules

I disagree Gentleman, That cant be the KSA Law. It definitely has to be a normal practice, and theres a difference between the practice and the LAW, so that these companies can retain people ( forcefully or whatever) and someone should not leave the country without notification.

ya, that i means, same bro, now u r working here, but even if ur company allows u to keep ur passport with u, u cant, its against law

dont tell my employer but i took the passport to go over to bahrain and had to turn in my iqama, then a few days later, i asked for my iqama "to make copies" and just well lets say "i forgot" to return the iqama.....

having the iqama helps with the security check points if you get pulled over. and hanging on to the passport helps being able to travel whenever you want. but since the iqama is the mostfuckingimportant card youll ever have in order to stay in saudi, its safer to keep it with the employer in which case, he has to keep it renewed and safe for you in case your walled gets nicked!

either way, its your call. i have a multi entry visa so i keep my passport to travel across to bahrain almost every weekend.

Well I do have both my documents with me. and yeah like BTBM i too head off to bahrain to chill at times.
And no by law, you are to have your passport AND your iqama. But practice is that the employer keeps one of these documents- well kinda like slavery.. ;) (lets not get started on that)

RedGoblin :

Well I do have both my documents with me. and yeah like BTBM i too head off to bahrain to chill at times.
And no by law, you are to have your passport AND your iqama. But practice is that the employer keeps one of these documents- well kinda like slavery.. ;) (lets not get started on that)

Hi RedGoblin - I completely agree with you !!

Oh well...I'll just have to deal with my passport being kept (except for when I travel out of KSA) and be satisfied with the iqama AND trust my employer.....
Guess that's life in KSA....

saharadesert :

Oh well...I'll just have to deal with my passport being kept (except for when I travel out of KSA) and be satisfied with the iqama AND trust my employer.....
Guess that's life in KSA....

Bulls Eye - Thats Completely correct and thats what most of the people do !!!

Thanks saimans !!

saharadesert :

Oh well...I'll just have to deal with my passport being kept (except for when I travel out of KSA) and be satisfied with the iqama AND trust my employer.....
Guess that's life in KSA....

yep.. you come here. trust somebody else with your passport and hope that they fnd it when you want to go back for hols. :D

It's against the law in Saudi for the employer to retain the passport but the tradition is to retain the passport. Go figure. Back home that would be extortion but there it's apparently okay because everyone else does it and has done it "forever". The US Embassy got in trouble for allowing their contractor companies to keep the passports of people working inside the Embassy.

You'll also hear that it doesn't make a difference that you don't have your passport since the iquama is your ID paper within the country. Without the exit visa, you cannot leave the country anyway. OTOH, a large construction/development company headquarters caught fire a year or two ago and reportedly burned up 17,000 employee records with the passports inside.

Some say they simply ask for the passport back and insist on it. Some of the military contractors don't put up with the practice at least for their western employees. My jury is still out on how comfortable I am about this practice.

I say that if this is against Saudi law then ones passport should NOT be held from you.

saharadesert :

I say that if this is against Saudi law then ones passport should NOT be held from you.

I doubt there is a Saudi law against this. But surely there is this general accepted practice about it and guess here nobody can raise their voices.....

Doubt all you want.....

Your company is keeping your passport illegally
By Diana Al-Jassem | ARAB NEWS
Published: Jul 21, 2011

JEDDAH: The fire that ripped through the six-story Alesayi Plaza in Jeddah last week and destroyed about 17,000 passports of expatriates working for the company raised a debate about why workers cannot keep their passports with them in the first place. The fire disrupted the holiday plans of many employees who were due to travel this month and facing the headache of obtaining new passports from their embassies and consulates. It is understood that there were some workers whose passports were already stamped with exit/re-entry visas.

International law gives passport holders the right to keep their own passports with them. There is no law that forces employees to surrender their passports to a person or workplace. In Saudi Arabia, expatriates are forced to hand them in to their employers. Some non-Saudi employees don't realize the potential problems of keeping their passports with their company, especially if it gets stolen, lost or damaged. Some countries have very tough rules when issuing new passports. Some employees may not get their new passports for years if an investigation has to be conducted.

“Saudi laws allow a non-Saudi employee to keep his or her passport and iqama (work permit). In fact, the passport belongs only to its holder,” said Matouq Al-Sharif, a member of the National Society for Human Rights. Although the Council of Ministers has allowed expatriates to keep their passports, many companies and Saudi employers still refuse to implement this rule. There is no department that supervises the implementation of this rule and protects the workers’ rights.”

According to Al-Sharif, most workers are unaware of their rights and they think handing their passports over to the company is legal. He said all workers should have the right to freely change jobs between companies and transfer their sponsorship. “During my last meeting with Labor Minister Adel Fakeih, he said that expatriate rights must be ensured and the Nitaqat program will respect the expatriate workers’ rights,’ said Al-Sharif. Fakeih confirmed that part of Nitaqat procedures is to recruit monitors in each company who will ensure the rights of expatriate workers and make sure their passports are kept with the employees.

Al-Sharif confirmed that using passports as a weapon to blackmail and pressure employees is against Saudi law. “As soon as the Nitaqat program begins its implementation, the companies will face five possible levels of punishment if they violate expatriate employees’ rights” said Al-Sharif.

A human resources manager at a private company in Jeddah who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that his department keeps hold of the employees’ passports. “Keeping the expatriate workers’ passports protects the company’s investment. It guarantees that the worker will not leave the country suddenly,” he said. “It also allows the company to update its employees’ data with the labor office. How can we update the information without having the passport in our possession? However, the company invests a huge amount of money to recruit employees. If they have their passports with them they might leave suddenly, causing huge losses.” He added that passports should be kept in a special place away from danger. There are special iron safes that protect the passports from fire and theft.

Yasser Khalil, an Egyptian engineer working for a private company, said that his Saudi employer blackmailed him using his passport. “He refused to pay my salary for three months. When I demanded my salary and passport so I could move elsewhere, he refused and said that he would only return my passport if I signed a paper waiving any legal right against his company.” Khalil complained to the local Labor Office, which was told by the employer that the passport had been stolen. An investigation revealed that the boss had kept the passport in his possession all this time and was using it to get out of paying the outstanding three months’ wages.

A human resources manager at a private company in Jeddah who also did not want to mention his name said that he does not see any logic in keeping passports. He said employees in general cannot travel outside the Kingdom without an exit/re-entry visa and said it was not a threat to the company if workers kept their passports. “In case of death or a sick relative in the employee’s home country, the worker has great difficulty in obtaining his or her passport, especially during the weekend. The companies’ human resources departments are shut over the weekend, in the evening and the Eid and national holidays. Some HR officers open the department on the weekend or vacation to respond to quick cases, but most of them refuse to do so,” he said.

arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article475334.ece

articles like this makes me think twice of wanting to come to saudi...
what hapens if you object to your company and dont want to give them your passport?
anyone been through this?

Yeah, it's disconcerting that even the Arab news agencies report this as frustrating but you still get them looking you in the face and telling you it's the law that they keep your passport.

I'm hopless too. Refusing to deliver the passport can yield nothing except running you in a fix.

ebrahim7860 :

articles like this makes me think twice of wanting to come to saudi...
what hapens if you object to your company and dont want to give them your passport?
anyone been through this?

you still not here yet, lol

i have iqama and only see my passport upon travelling with family

Hello everyone,

I've read the newspaper articles and the hearsay - but does anyone have a reference to the actual saudi law that says we can retain our passports?

Ah the elusive "law that says you can keep your passport!"  Most of us are told, when we first get here that we must surender our passport in exchange for being issued an Iqama.  In recent months, some of the "compound lawyers" here (unpaid self-proclaimed para-legal know-it-alls) claim that a "new law" says we can retain our passport, while also retaining the Iqama.  It may or may not be a fact. I think the long-standing policy of keeping our passports, is based on centuries-old "endentured servant" mentality, i.e. the passport will keep us as hostages and ensure we don't turn into "runners" and suddenly catch a flight out in the middle of the night.  However, this is also flawed logic, as one must have an exit visa to show the customs official at the airport as they depart.
All this being said, I personally haven't had a problem getting my passport whenever I've needed it, and some co-workers of mine who have had family emergencies back home have always been issued their passports upon request without any fuss.  With all the smokers in my compound, and the dangerous gas canisters used for cooking, and shoddy electrical wiring, I think my passport is safer in the school safe on campus than it is in my apartment!
The mythical "new law" might exist, but I wouldn't stress out about them having your passport, as you can't get out of here anyway without an exit visa, unless of course you kept your passport, and still have some time left on a multiple entry visa. Then it might be possible. My bad for the long post.

Guys, The recent news which you are talking about here is confusing. The current law in effect says that the employee has the right to keep his passport along. I have read the Minister of Labour detailing about it.

Your employer insisting on keeping your passport is a cultural issue (as you said above in line#3) more of a legal one. And laws can't be made to change the culture.

And as Dave also said, what if all employers return the passports to employees; Will that be of any use if you still need exit,re-entry visa to fly?

TheLegendLeads :

Guys, The recent news which you are talking about here is confusing. The current law in effect says that the employee has the right to keep his passport along. I have read the Minister of Labour detailing about it.

Your employer insisting on keeping your passport is a cultural issue (as you said above in line#3) more of a legal one. And laws can't be made to change the culture.

And as Dave also said, what if all employers return the passports to employees; Will that be of any use if you still need exit,re-entry visa to fly?

Can you provide the ministry of labor reference?

I said MINISTER of Labour; not ministry :)

Will look for a better reference in the evening, just leaving home for something.

Do go though: http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article475334.ece

By the way, a few days back I had a friendly chat with the HR manager while smoking. I asked him to return my passport because he is illegally holding it :). He told me that he would be obliged as it would help him save some space in his locker :lol:

saharadesert :

My sponsor says it is the law in Saudi that they keep my passport but they will issue me an Iqama.
They also said that whenever I need to travel I can just ask for my passport and pay the $60 travel visa....
Is holding ones passport legal in the kingdom ?

As the guys said its the law to keep the passport with the employer. But in some companies specially international one you can retain your passport and they will issue for you a multi exit re-entry visa

Please check. http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article475334.ece

Appreciated @sudhahar, but this is the 3rd time someone referred to this link in this thread :)

ebrahim7860 :

articles like this makes me think twice of wanting to come to saudi...
what hapens if you object to your company and dont want to give them your passport?
anyone been through this?

I'm wondering the same thing...Has anyone ever experienced refusing to (politely) to give the employer the passport...perhaps during the negotiation phase?

Also..

Dave-KSA :

The mythical "new law" might exist, but I wouldn't stress out about them having your passport, as you can't get out of here anyway without an exit visa, unless of course you kept your passport, and still have some time left on a multiple entry visa. Then it might be possible. My bad for the long post.

Newbie here...how long is the multiple entry visa for??

expatsoon2b :

Newbie here...how long is the multiple entry visa for??

6 mos. 

BTW, I recently found out that there is a FINE if you apply for, pay  for, and receive an exit/reentry visa and don't use it within a certain period of time.  Astounding! You would think they'd just consider it 'found' money!

Alliecat :
expatsoon2b :

Newbie here...how long is the multiple entry visa for??

6 mos.

It can be 6 months or 12 months !!

Not 12 months Saimans; it's max 6.

1- It expires after 6 months from the date of issue.
2- If iqama expires before that, exit re-entry also gets void.

If you don't travel on any exit re-entry visa (single/multiple), you have to cancel it before exiry to avoid penalties. I paid it last year :(

TheLegendLeads :

Not 12 months Saimans; it's max 6.

1- It expires after 6 months from the date of issue.
2- If iqama expires before that, exit re-entry also gets void.

If you don't travel on any exit re-entry visa (single/multiple), you have to cancel it before exiry to avoid penalties. I paid it last year :(

Are you sure ??? People in our organisation have a 12 month Multiple exit/Re-entry visa and the other statement

1- It expires after 6 months 1 year from the date of issue. first exit out of the country. However, depending on the validity of the IQAMA.

Correct me if I'm wrong !!!

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