News Details

Fragomen News Flash

Date: Tue, 02 Apr, 2019

Fragomen News Flash

Immigration developments in the MENA Region


Effective immediately, citizens of China are eligible for visa-free entry to Qatar for stays of up to 30 days, and Qatari citizens are subject to the same policy when travelling to China. This comes as a result of an approved agreement between the governments of Qatar and China signed in July 2018. The agreement stipulates that work, study, residency and journalism are not permissible under this entry policy. Previously, Chinese passport holders were eligible for a 30-day visa-on-arrival in Qatar and Qatari citizens were required to obtain a visa for travel to China.


Employers in Qatar are facing difficulties in obtaining approvals for select immigration and employment applications for Egyptian nationals. While no official announcements have been made by the Qatari authorities, in practice, the following processes for Egyptian nationals are currently suspended or subject to significant delays:

* Transfer of sponsorship between employers;
* Issuance of new labour cards for female applicants with a residence permit sponsored by her husband or father; and
* Renewal of labour cards for female applicants with a residence permit sponsored by her husband or father.

Additionally, since June 2017, Egyptian nationals are restricted from obtaining new entry visas, including visas for work or residence in Qatar. This restriction is still in effect.

Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Labour and Social Development issued a draft resolution on the mandatory requirement for private sector employers to upload their entire workforce’s employment contracts to the General Organisation for Social Insurance’s electronic portal. The draft law has been sent for public consultation and it is expected to become effective within the next couple of weeks.


The cabinet of Saudi Arabia announced a new visa category that will soon be available to foreign nationals travelling to Saudi Arabia to attend official events. An ‘event visa’ will be available to those participating in official events approved by the Saudi government and will be issued through Saudi consular posts and accredited visa service centres abroad. According to the announcement, the visa will be issued within 24 hours of application. The implementation date of the new law has not been announced yet.


The Directorate General of Passports announced that effective immediately, foreign nationals applying for a family visit visa extension in Saudi Arabia must extend their health insurance policy before initiating the visa process for each applicant. Family visit visas are usually issued for a maximum duration of stay of 90 days, which can be extended once for the same duration of time. The extension is processed through the Ministry of Interior’s electronic portal called ‘Absher’ and it must be done between seven and three days before the visa expiry date.


The Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) announced the implementation of a new system for the recruitment of domestic workers, effective March 2019. The system aims to streamline and secure the application process as well as reduce personal appearance at various government agencies


Companies must pay a higher fee for employment of foreign nationals above the prescribed Bahranization rates, as government fees applicable to Parallel Bahranization program have been increased effective 8 March 2019. Employers must pay BHD 500, instead of BHD 300 previously for a two-year employment permit for a new applicant or for a work permit renewal.


Residence permit applicants in Kuwait will no longer receive a residence visa sticker in their passport, following the implementation of a new law that aims to record all residence details within one document and to replace visa sticker with a Civil Identification card. As a result, the identity document is now issued with additional residence information and, in certain cases, is required for entry to, and departure from, Kuwait.


Effective 14 March 2019, citizens of select countries can apply for electronic entry visas to Pakistan through an online portal launched by the National Database and Registration Authority that falls under the Ministry of Interior. The portal is currently in a testing phase and open to nationals of China, Malaysia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom. A total of 175 nationalities are expected to be able to benefit from the service after the trial period has been completed, although they may be restricted to select visa categories only. Citizens of countries not included in the respective lists will have to obtain their visas through consular missions abroad.


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