The online services for the department of passports, which also include the renewal of residence permit amongst other services which are linked to the expatriate workers, are putting the local agents or muageb out of work. These muagebs or agents held a vital or essential role for the expatriates since they are those who are complying with the necessary processes for the Iqama renewal. This highly efficient online portal has allowed the employers to shorten or lessen the requirements for the renewal of Iqama or the permit of residence. In the year 2013, several expatriate workers would be extremely dependent on the sponsor in order to renew their permit. These agents would complete the documentation for a minimum payment or fee of SAR 5,000
Several of the Saudis who have been involved in the agent business have also built special offices where the expatriates can come to submit their documents and also provide a place to discuss any problems that the expatriate might be facing in their Iqama renewal. The majority of these agents know somebody or individual inside the passport department and hence these muagebs could often find out solutions to several complications which might arise during the process. However the online service by the Passport Department has now changed the game entirely. This electronic channel can be used by the expatriates who are in need to complete their necessary procedures for the permit of residence but they must also be employed legally by a proper company working in the private sector. These private companies have also started employing people to visit the passport department or the Labor office to follow up on the applications.
Abdullah Al Zaharni, a former muageb or agent at the passport office spoke to the Arab News that he has changed his profession already due to the fact that the entire system for the iqama has been changed. He also added that the online service of the passport department known as Absher can also be now filed by employers directly.
Expatriates have commended this new move by the Passport Department as it has helped these expatriate get permits of residence at lower prices than before. Several expatriates would complain that the muagebs charge exorbitant fees for their services and also take advantage of the expatriates who are in need to get their permits renewed.
Ahmed Sadeeq, who is a Sudanese working in the Kingdom, has complained that these muagebs would increase their fees for the renewal after every renewal. Hussain Al Asaad, a Syrian employee in the private sector stated that even though these agents would charge high fees, they were vital to facilitate affairs and proceeding of the expatriates in the Kingdom. However the scene has now changed and expatriates can also process their own papers without any agent. Several companies also have a HR department who are tasked to follow up with the transfer of sponsorship and the renewal of the Iqama.
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