April 23, 2012

Nitaqat is the name of the game

Arab news

Nitaqat is the name of the game


By Abdullah Al Alami

The guidelines are clear; in order for foreign workers to transfer their iqamas from "red" or "yellow" companies to "green" companies", they have to meet the four conditions set by the Ministry of Labor.

First, you must have been in the Kingdom for over six years. Second, you must have completed at least two years of service in the company that you wish to leave. Third, your transfer is possible only after the expiry of your work permit. Fourth, you are eligible to transfer to the "green" zone company only if your employer is still in "yellow" or "red" category.

What comes next is just paperwork. Once you have met all the above four requirements, you need to produce a request from the new company seeking your service to the labor office to finalize transfer procedures. The new system is supposedly designed to protect the rights of both foreign workers and employers.

Well, what is all this noise about color designations?

Companies in the "green" and "premium" categories are both lucky and happy; they abide by Saudization rules and enjoy a lot of benefits and incentives. They will be able to recruit foreign workers unless they fall below the “green” level and do not apply for such visas more than once every two months. Premier companies will also be allowed transfer of visas and change of profession of their foreign workers, but the service would be available only once every two months. In addition, they can get the transfer of visas of employees from other companies, without fulfilling the condition of completing two years with the first employee. Furthermore, “green” companies can hire any worker from "red" or "yellow" companies without their consent. Is this good or what?

On the other hand, companies in the "yellow" zone would be given a grace period of nine months, but they would not be able to extend their foreign employees' work visas beyond six years.

"Red" zone companies are in serious trouble; they would be granted six months to improve their status by hiring more Saudis before facing punitive actions and will not be able to renew their foreign workers' visas. For example, if a construction company does not have 10 percent Saudis on its payroll then it would end up in the “red” zone. That’s not all; companies in the “red” would be banned from change of profession, transfer of visas, issuance of new visas and opening files for new branches. I have a feeling that “red” companies hate change and love it at the same time; they want things to remain the same but get better.

Will this ultimately lead to the nullification of sponsorship system all together? It probably would, otherwise the five years spent by the Ministry of Labor to complete the study would go in vain.

I have some good news and bad news. The good news is that the Council of Ministers issued a decision No. 166 in 1421H calling for organizing the relationship between the foreign worker and employer within the framework of a work contract. The bad news is that many government departments still have not yet implemented the rule. Here is some more good news. Your passport will no longer be held, and the condition of obtaining your sponsor's approval for you to bring your family to the Kingdom will be cancelled.

Are there glitches in the system? Of course there are. Some argue that there are companies which may have not been listed correctly in the ministry database. Others firmly believe they were misplaced in the wrong zone.

Tweet: "Nitaqat is not designed nor intended to threaten the stability of guest workers in the Kingdom," the minister of labor.

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