Unlike other countries, Saudi Arabia has a very unique way of handling their immigration rules and regulations. The most important one, which severely affects expatriates, is the exit/re-entry regulations. In Saudi Arabia, one needs to obtain needs to obtain a visa stamp for entry, exit, and re-entry. Many expatriates do not release this and believe since they already have a valid visa they can come and go as they please. This is completely false.
I have already covered in an earlier article “Demystifying the Saudi Arabian Visa Experience” the differences and stipulations regarding exit / re-entry visa. As a reference to the article, I would like to highly stress that any expatriate exiting Saudi Arabia, will need to have an exit and a reentry visa. The good thing is that you will only have to go through this hassle once, as these visas are issued as a six month, multiple entry visas. Now, what happens if you have an emergency or you forgot and this is the 7th time you are reentering? I will highlight the exact steps you will need to follow.
First, note that Thursdays and Fridays are the equivalent of the Western weekend of Saturday and Sunday. This means government offices and computer systems will be closed. Next, the passport and visa offices are closed completely twice a year – 2 weeks for Eid Al-Fitr and 2 weeks for Eid Al-Adha. Last, during Ramadan, which has a rotating calendar schedule, you can expect government offices to have unexpected closures, limited hours, and short staffed. If you do not have a multiple visa or your visa has expired and you happen to find yourself in an emergency situation during any of these times, there are special provisions you must follow. At the Kingdom’s discretion, they may decide to grant you an emergency exit/re-entry visa.
Each of the major 3 airports has an official stationed in the Saudi Passport Department. This positioned is staffed by at least one person 24/7 and 365 days a year. If your situation is extremely dire, the official may acquiesce and decide to grant you an emergency exit/re-entry visa. However, this will not be a multiple, entry visa and is only valid for 15 days; which means you have exactly 15 calendar days (not business days) to re-enter the kingdom. If you do not re-enter within this time frame, your visa will be canceled and you will be considered out of status, which will have huge ramifications financially and legally. Lastly, in order to even begin this process, either your sponsor or sponsor’s Government Relations Rep must personally accompany you to the airport. It is here, he will sign a declaration form certifying your employment, the hosts’ financial responsibility, and guaranteeing your return in 15 days. You can now see how this would affect your employment if you decide to stay longer than the 15 days.
Generally, most major companies in Saudi Arabia have a Government Relations Officer. His specific job is to facilitate a smooth transition with the visa process between the employee, host, and sponsor. It would be a good idea to have this persons contact with you 24/7. If you are approaching a weekend or a major holiday, it is imperative to check the shift schedules or glean the Deputy Director’s number. This can save you a big hassle if you are in need of an emergency entry/re-exit visas.
Of course to prevent embarrassing and stressful situations it is highly advised to apply for the multiple exit/re-entry visas and to keep an accurate account of the visas validity, expiration, and number of uses. These little steps can go a long way to save you from big problems.