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 Home » News » Saudi - Thursday 23 Mar 2006

No College Degree, No Iqama Transfer, Says Labor Ministry

Gwen Guthrie, an African-American woman of substantial volume and the vocal cords that come with that volume has a song that goes: No romance without the finance You got to have a J-O-B if you wanna be with me .

The Ministry of Labor s new song for expatriates, seeking to transfer their residency permits, and seek employment could be: If you want to work here, you gotta have a degree.

Earlier this week, the Labor office announced stringent regulations that sum-up with provisions that will disenfranchise a large number of foreign residents, who grew up in the Kingdom and are now working here.

In summary the new regulations, which shifted the large portion of authority from the hands of the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Labor, will make it harder for foreign residents who only have high school degrees or less to transfer their Iqamas.

The toughest condition in the regulations is that foreign residents living here need paperwork from their home country saying they have experience in the professions listed in their residency permit books, otherwise simply known as Iqamas.

The Ministry of Labor s goal behind the new regulations is of course to support the Saudization drive in the country. For expatriates, who grew up in the Kingdom, went to public schools here, have not lived elsewhere, and call Saudi Arabia home, they feel cheated.

Khaled Ahmad, a 45-year old Indian, who owns and runs a supermarket under the cloak of a Saudi, has been living and working in the Kingdom for the past three decades.

I came to the kingdom when I was 11 years old with my father and two sisters, he told The Saudi Gazette.

His two sisters are married to Saudis. Him and his family speak Arabic at home and visits the mosque five times a day to pray. Ahmad, who lives in apartment right beside his parent s place, now has a family of his own.

At his shop, where he dresses in a customary white thobe and red shmakh (red cloth head dress) he greets and deals with his customers in Hijazi, and if you are not a Passport Department official, you would think he is Saudi.

For him, the new regulations mean that he can be uprooted at any point and sent back to a country whose nationality he holds, but cannot call home.

Mohammad Shawanee, 32, was born and raised in Jeddah, and like Ahmad never really took much care when it came to following through on his education. He married a Saudi woman and fathered three children from her. He puts food on the table by driving around the women and children of a rich-Jeddah family, a job he has had for the past 12-years.

I have never been to Pakistan. I was born in Jeddah and call this place home , he told The Saudi Gazette.

Unfortunately, Shawanee added, we want the country, but the country does not want us.

Shawanee has no fears about his immediate future, but fears for the future of his three children and his wife.

Because, he has no degree, not even a high-school diploma, Shawanee cannot apply for citizenship. Having lived in Jeddah all of his life, going back to Pakistan to get a certificate saying how good a driver he is, does not figure an option either.

Likewise for Abdul Razaq Omar, a 24-year old Afghani national, who like Shawanee was born here and has never been to his country of origin. Omar is about to marry a Saudi woman and fears that his and his bride-to-be s plan may go south.

I do not want to think about going back to Afghanistan or whether or not our marriage permit will come through. I leave my fate in the hands of Allah, he told The Saudi Gazette.

By Abdulaziz A. Basleem
The Saudi Gazette

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