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Fragomen Worldwide - October News Flash

Date Posted: Mon, 07 Oct, 2019

Fragomen Worldwide - October News Flash

Immigration developments in the MENA Region


The Qatar Ministry of Interior has opened a new visa service centre for Filipino nationals who need to complete mandatory immigration procedures prior to travelling to Qatar under a Work Visa. The visa centre operates in Manila, Philippines. As per the Ministry’s notification, Filipino nationals travelling to Qatar for Work Residence Permit purposes must complete a medical examination, submit their biometric data and have their electronic employment contract signed prior to obtaining an entry permit for travel to Qatar. This stems from a rule implemented in 2018 for nationals from select countries, including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Tunisia.

Saudi Arabia

The Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia has issued a decision amending the available validity of visitor visas, including commercial visit and work visit visas. Visa applications accompanied by invitation letters with visa validities that are different from those that are allowable as per the visa type and the nationality of the applicant will not be accepted by Saudi consular posts. Citizens of countries that signed bilateral visa agreements with Saudi Arabia, including France, the United Kingdom and the United States, can continue applying for visas with varying durations (up to five years) based on nationality. Citizens of countries that do not have such agreements with the Kingdom, including Australia, China, Germany and India, are now limited to either three-month single-entry or 12-month multiple-entry visas. The maximum allowable duration of stay under a single-entry visa for three- and for six months is 30 days; and for visas with other validities it is 90 days. In addition to the above changes, the ministerial decision introduces one government fee of SAR 300 per application for all types of visit visas, including commercial visit, work visit and family visit visa. Previously, the fee was calculated based on the visa category and the nationality of applicant.


Effective 27 September 2019, foreign nationals travelling to Saudi Arabia for tourism can obtain a one-year multiple-entry visa for stays of up to 90 days. The maximum total duration of stay in one year is 180 days. The visa is non-extendable and permits for entry through airports and seaports only. Citizens of 49 countries, including China, the European Union, Russia, the United Kingdom and United States, can apply for an electronic visa (e-visa) prior to arrival through an online portal, or upon arrival through e-visa kiosks located near the passport control areas. Nationals of countries not eligible for an e-visa can obtain approvals through Saudi consular posts. Considering that the underlying regulations prohibit carrying out activities other than tourism, and explicitly prohibit conducting paid or unpaid employment and medical treatment visits, foreign nationals travelling for business are advised to apply for immigration authorizations relevant for their purpose of travel, including commercial visit and work visit visas.


Effective immediately, the Ministry of Manpower has set out minimum ratios of Omani workers to foreign workers in different professional levels for private sector companies contracting with companies in the electricity and water sectors. The respective ratio requirement will apply annually for four or five years, following the start of the contract and depending on the sector. For example, managers in the electricity sector are subject to the following ratios of the percentage of Omanis in the company’s headcount: first year- 60%; second year- 70%; third year- 80%; and fourth year- 90%; managers in the water sector are subject to the following ratios: first year- 30%; second year- 60%; third year- 100%; fourth year- 100%; and fifth year- 100%.


Effective immediately, citizens of 175 countries travelling to Pakistan for employment are no longer required to have their entry visa sticker endorsed at a Pakistani consular post abroad. Instead, they can obtain their visa stamp upon arrival after they present a copy of a visa pre-approval document issued by the Ministry of Interior, based on a recommendation of the Board of Investment in Pakistan. Citizens of countries not included in the list must still secure their visa through consular missions abroad. Pakistan recently changed its entry visa policies and launched an electronic portal to facilitate the application process for over 10 different categories of entry visas to Pakistan.


The Ministry of Labour in Jordan has issued new regulations that among other changes, create a mandatory new work authorization route for highly-skilled foreign workers. Foreign nationals must apply for the skilled work permit when there is no qualified Jordanian job seeker available on the labour market. The government fee for new category of work permit for skilled workers is JOD 2,500 (USD 3,526), significantly higher than the recently-standardized fee of JOD 500 (USD 705) for most other work permits, and much higher than the fee now applicable in free zones (JOD 275 per permit - approximately USD 388). The government has not yet clarified how it will determine that an employer can hire foreign workers in a skilled profession and has not yet issued a list of professions affected by the new rule. It is also unclear whether the government is applying the new standards to pending work permit applications.

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