Jeddah: Ibrahim Nafee
Thursday 5 July 2012
Last Update 5 July 2012 4:12 am
When an expatriate’s residency permit (iqama) is about to expire, the bank they are dealing with starts to send messages asking them to update their data including a valid iqama number to prevent their bank account being frozen.
Troubles with the bank can continue if the iqama renewal is delayed for any possible reason — the sponsor’s commercial registration could have expired for instance.
Expatriate employees who receive their salary through bank transfer would not be able to withdraw money if the iqama has expired.
Saudi banking procedures say a bank account is frozen as soon as the client’s identification documents expire – both Saudis and expatriates.
When that happens, a client would not be able to withdraw money or renew the ATM card until they update their bank data, which requires a renewal of the identification card or residency documents.
However, the account case can still receive deposits.
Tal’at Hafiz, secretary general of the information committee for banking awareness, said Saudi banks do differentiate between Saudis and expatriates.
According to banking policies in Saudi Arabia, account freezing is applied on any client whose identification documents have expired.
He said: “The account must have credibility and legitimacy through the validity of the client’s documents. The banks communicate with the clients before their accounts are frozen.
“If the data is not renewed within 180 days after the freezing, then the account is closed after the client settles any outstanding dues to the bank.
“The accounts of expatriates who leave the country on a permanent exit visa are also closed.
“In this case, the expatriate has to present documents like an exit visa to be able to withdraw any money still in the frozen account.”
Several expatriates expressed resentment as their sponsors’ commercial registers had expired and they were not able to renew their iqamas. Their bank accounts are frozen and they would be unable to fulfil their financial commitments.
Abdulrahman Yousif, a Syrian working for an advertising company in Jeddah, said he has been waiting for an iqama renewal for the last six months but his sponsor’s commercial registration expired.
Yousif used to get his salary through bank transfers but now he cannot use his account and his bills are accumulating.
Saleh Al-Haj, a Sudanese working for a company in Jeddah, said his iqama renewal has taken four months so far.
His sponsor is out of the country and he is under pressure to pay the rent.
Ministry of Labor spokesman Hattab Al-Enizi said the employee is entitled to file a complaint if harmed by the owner of the sponsoring company, as it constitutes a breach of contract.
He said: “The complaint will be received by the Labor Office that will meet with the two parties and try to resolve the issue.
“If it is not solved, then the case will be referred to the Primary Commission for a final verdict, and if any of the parties appeals within a month, the matter will then be referred to the Supreme Commission whose verdict will be final.”
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