March 20, 2012

As of March 31, 2012, female expatriates who apply to amend, replace or request a residence permit (iqama) will be required to submit her fingerprints in order to receive a valid residence permit.   On another note, passengers applying for an electronic gate card (E-Gate Card) will no longer be issued with multiple cards.

What’s Changed?

The Saudi Government is implementing new protocols and requirements to centralize information pertaining to all foreign nationals while introducing stricter measures to monitor the flow of foreign nationals into the country.  Recent changes announced by the Ministry of Interior’s (MOI) Passport Department are as follows:

New Fingerprint Requirement for Female Expatriates

In the past, only male expatriates were required to submit fingerprints as part of their residence permit application process.

On March 31, 2012, female expatriates (i.e., women granted a Saudi work permit) will no longer be exempt from submitting their fingerprints when applying for a new residence permit, amending their current status or requesting a replacement card.  Please be advised that this is the first phase by the Saudi authorities to centralize foreign national data and that additional registration requirements may be announced in the future.

Those that are required to undergo fingerprinting may visit the MOI’s website to confirm their nearest fingerprinting facility (link).

New E-Gate Card Requirements

In June 2010, E-Gate Cards were introduced at two, major Saudi international airports (King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh and King Fahd International Airport in Dammam) to facilitate an expedited entry process passengers through designated electronic immigration gates.

To receive an E-Gate Card, upon arrival in Saudi Arabia passengers apply at the airport’s Immigration Office by submitting their passport details and biometrics (e.g., fingerprint and iris scans).  If approved, an E-Gate Card is issued with the passenger’s photo.  E-Gate Card holders must present a valid passport and, if required, a valid business visa to enter Saudi Arabia using this priority entry facility. Also, in the past, one person could obtain multiple E-Gate Cards.

As of March 1, 2012, due to perceived abuses by passengers entering Saudi Arabia using another person’s card, the Immigration Office at King Khaled International Airport and the Passports Department of the Ministry of Interior‎ in Riyadh (“Jawazat”) has stopped issuing multiple E-Gate Cards to single applicants.

Now, each applicant must personally before the Immigration Office and present a boarding pass in order to receive a card. Only one card will be granted per passenger.  In addition, passengers issued with a new E-Gate Card should note that the validity of their card will be tied to the expiration date on their business visa.

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

At this time, female expatriates with valid residence permits (iqamas) may voluntarily choose to submit their fingerprints.  For all other instances, companies are advised to inform their female expatriate staff to complete the process at their respective passports administrations office.   The MOI has not yet announced whether all female foreign nationals will be required to undergo fingerprinting or if female expatriates holding a valid residence permit will be required to submit fingerprints in the near future.

Business travelers should be aware of the new rules limiting E-Gate Cards only to the passenger listed on the boarding pass and to not allow another person to his or her card.  In addition, business visitors should confirm the expiration date of their card against the expiration of their business visa.

Please note that changes regarding these and other Saudi border control/foreign population control measures may change with little to no advance notice.

This news alert was provided in coordination with our Saudi KGNM–Move One.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or final guidance for any immigration matter. Readers are reminded that a country’s immigration laws and requirements may change with little to no advance public notice. Questions regarding specific immigration matters should be addressed to your Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist.