Iqama — Saudi residence permit — is the most important document an expat living in Saudi Arabia should posses.
The Iqama is a residence permit, a legal document that allows the bearer to stay in Saudi Arabia for the time being. The permit has an expiry date, and expats should renew their document before that date. The Iqama allows expats to receive temporary residence status, which provides benefits such as sponsoring family members to come to the Kingdom as well. If an official is asking for an Iqama randomly, even on the street, the expat must show one. It is essential to keep in mind to carry the document anywhere. A charge and fee can be imposed against the expat, if he/she is caught without a document.
Penalties for failure to carry Iqama
Depending on the frequency the expat is caught without an Iqama, the penalty can be more or less severe.
- In the first instance expats are caught without a legal residency document they may be detained and locked up. However, they are allowed to make a call, to a friend or family member, or any other person with access to their Iqama. He/she then has to deliver the Iqama to the bearer, after which the expat is released, but has to pay a fee of 1000 SAR.
- The second time, the fine becomes higher. The government considers the expat as someone who has a habit of making violations to the Law. The procedure is same as the first time, but the penalty is higher, now set at 2000 SAR. A warning is also issued against the expat.
- Third strike and you’re out. That is how things work in baseball, and it is the same with Iqama. The third penalty is deportation, unless the Kafeel wants to retain the expat. Besides calling a friend, expats must also call their Kafeel. The fee is now set at 3000 SAR.
There are few exceptions when a person can be caught without an Iqama. Those are if the document is in the process of renewal, or it is lost.
- When the Iqama is in the process of renewal, expats receive a letter from their Kafeel, which is a substitute for an Iqama. The same procedure applies if the person doesn?t carry a letter. It is important to note however that the letter is valid for only 2 months. Any more than that and the government finds, the expat irresponsible, since the Iqama should be renewed by then.
- If the Iqama is lost, the expat must provide a valid police report. The report is valid for one month, a time during which the expat must obtain a new Iqama.