It might sound strange that someone would be careless about their or their family’s visa. However, in Saudi Arabia this does happen to expats. Many expats in Saudi Arabia are ignorant about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) guidelines. Many still do not know about types of Visa Violations and the huge penalty one can have to pay for a silly mistake. It is important to educate oneself about the same to keep the entire family safe.
How Common are Visa Violations in Saudi Arabia?
Surprisingly, Visa Violations are extremely common in KSA. In 2016 media reported that in Riyadh alone there were 2.7 Million Visa Violations a year! Despite strict rules why are expatriates still indulging in violations? Perhaps the main reason is ignorance about the laws and regulations.
How to Avoid Visa Violations by Being Mindful
You can save your self a lot of trouble if you are just a bit careful and particular about Saudi laws. Follow these tips to stay safe from fine, deportation and prison:
- Do not take Visa laws in Saudi Arabia lightly. Educate your self about the regulations put in place by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
- Don’t issue a visa just for fun. Cancellation can be a problem.
- If you have an unused visa that might expire soon, get it canceled to avoid huge fines.
- Always make sure passports are renewed at least 6 months in advance. This is so that new Visas can be stamped easily.
- Mark the date of Iqama expiry on the calendar. Also, set a reminder on your phone one month prior to expiry. Make sure to renew the iqama on time.
- If you have family on Visit Visa make sure you note down the visa expiry date. Then keep a reminder on your phone if you intend to renew their visas. Also book return tickets for dates at least 2-3 days before visa expiry.
- If you have issued an Exit or Exit re-entry Visa, set reminders for the date before which your family should exit Saudi Arabia. Also keep a reminder for the date by which your family should be back in Saudi Arabia.
- Make sure you never indulge in sale or purchase of any illegal or fake visa. Stay away from Azad Visa and all its forms.
5 Most Serious Penalties for Various Visa Violations
Many times expats get in trouble in Saudi simply because they do not know the rules. Stay informed about regulations especially by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Ministry of Interior (MOI).
To get detailed information, read our article about Top Expatriate Mistakes in Saudi that Carry Serious Punishments- MOI
The 5 most serious violations related to Visa and Iqama that carry the heaviest punishment if the offender is an expatriate are:
- Making a fake Iqama or Visa or creating fake documents for obtaining iqama or visa: Fine of 10,000 SAR and imprisonment for 3 months plus deportation.
- Providing shelter to an Overstayer i.e. someone whose Visa has expired but continues to stay illegally in Saudi Arabia: Fine of 10,000 SAR, one-month imprisonment and deportation.
- A religious pilgrim who comes for Umrah or Ziyarah and overstays to work illegally in Saudi Arabia: Fine of 10,000 SAR, one-month imprisonment, deportation on his own expense and being banned from securing a Visa for Umrah/ Visit for at least one year.
- A religious pilgrim who comes for Umrah or Ziyarah and travels outside of Makkah, Madinah, and Jeddah to other parts of Saudi Arabia which are not part of his specified route: Fine of 10,000 SAR, one-month imprisonment, and deportation on his own expense.
- Transporting a religious pilgrim who comes for Umrah or Ziyarah outside the specified travel routes: Fine of 10,000 SAR, one to three months imprisonment, and deportation.