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Overstayers race against Saudi amnesty deadline
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 08 - 01 - 2011

RIYADH: A number of expatriates from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines who arrived in Saudi Arabia and overstayed their visas are taking advantage of the government amnesty that ends March 23.
Hundreds of Indian nationals can be seen queuing at the Indian Embassy in Riyadh with requests for an Emergency Certificate (EC) that enables overstayers to leave the Kingdom on an exit-only visa.
According to a statement from the Indian Embassy, issuance of such certificates to Indian nationals is part of the amnesty scheme announced by the Saudi government in October last year. Under the scheme, those overstaying after arriving on Haj, Umrah or visitors visas can leave Saudi Arabia on or before March 23, 2011.
The Saudi amnesty scheme does not apply to those expatriates who arrived in Saudi Arabia on work visas and who have been reported as “runaway workers” by their sponsors.
“A number of Indian nationals are approaching the Indian mission to obtain Emergency Certificates to return home to India,” an Indian Embassy press statement said.
“As of now, the Saudi amnesty scheme does not apply to ‘huroob' cases,” the statement from the Indian Embassy said, referring to those workers who were reported as runaways by their sponsors.
Applicants at the Indian Embassy seeking Emergency Certificates are required to submit documents that include a copy of their passport, or a copy of other documents, such as election cards, ration cards or driving licenses to prove that they are Indian nationals.
The Indian Embassy said those persons who do not possess a valid passport and who wish to obtain an “exit visa” from the relevant Saudi authorities, such as the Saudi Passport Office or Deportation Center, should approach the Indian Embassy to get an Emergency Certificate.
Those Indians who have passports need not apply under the scheme. They should travel to India on their passports, the statement said.
Haroonur Rasheed, Labor Counselor at the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh, said the mission issues documents called “one-time travel permits” to Bangladeshis.
“During the past three-month period, the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh has issued one-time travel permits to about 3,800 Bangladeshi nationals,” said Rasheed. He said before issuing the travel permit, the embassy makes sure that the applicant is a Bangladeshi national. Moreover, the applicant has to furnish guarantees from a fellow Bangladeshi who holds a valid Iqama (residence permit) and a Saudi national that he arrived in Saudi Arabia either on a Haj, Umrah or visitors visa.
Irfan Shaukat, head of chancery (HOC) at the Pakistani Embassy in Riyadh, said issuing travel passes to applicants has been proving to be a risky job.
The embassy conducts interviews to ensure that the applicants are Pakistani nationals. “We have been issuing about 35 to 60 travel permits on a daily basis,” said Shaukat.
He said the applicants are required to produce a copy of their passport or other documents such as a personal ID card (CNICs issued by Nadra) to prove their Pakistani nationality. He said the process of issuing travel permits is not 100 percent foolproof.
The Pakistani Embassy has so far issued between 1,500 and 2,000 travel permits to those who have applied under the Saudi amnesty, Shaukat said.
Philippine authorities Friday called on overstaying Filipino pilgrims or visitors in the Kingdom to take advantage of the six-month Royal Amnesty.
The Philippine Consulate in Jeddah said that the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has issued guidelines on how overstaying Filipinos can avail themselves of the amnesty offer.
The DFA said these Filipinos need to do the following:
n Prepare the original or copy of the passport used to enter the Kingdom where the entry number was stamped or written;
n Prepare the money needed to purchase a one-way ticket back to the Philippines and SR120 if without passport or if the passport has expired; and
n Approach the Consulate's Assistance to Nationals Section for a briefing and issuance of Travel Document, as needed. The DFA reminded overstaying Filipinos that applications for exit visas are entertained only on Saturdays.
Upon presentation of the original or copy of the passport where the entry number is written, the Philippine Consulate General shall then obtain the appropriate computer print-out record from the Saudi Passports Office.
The print-out is needed in applying for an exit visa. This is done during regular office days. The DFA said an overstaying Filipino who has obtained the computer printout of his record will then have to proceed to the Fingerprinting Office to have his personal details, picture and fingerprints taken. His exit visa will then be stamped.
It said Filipinos who lost their passports when they entered the Kingdom and who do not have a copy of their passports will be assisted by Philippine consulate officials who will follow up their repatriation with the Saudi government.

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