The cost for expats living and working in Saudi Arabia has soared as falling oil revenues start to bite on the economy.
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As the government faces a massive $98 billion budget black hole, one way to claw back some cash is to charge expats and tourists more for visas.
The new increases cover work, tourism, residency and pilgrimage visits to Saudi Arabia.
The only exemptions are first time pilgrims and visitors from countries with bilateral visa agreements with Saudi Arabia.
Under the new tariffs, the cost of a single entry visa rises to £398.
Six-month multiple entry visas increase to £596, year-long visas to £995 and two-year visas to £1,590.
A transit visa goes up to £60.
Expats will pay £40 to leave Saudi Arabia and for a return within two months. Longer trips add £20 to the cost of a visa for each extra month out of the country up to the end of the duration of a residency visa.
The new fees come into force from October 2, 2016.
Until the change, all visas were priced at a £100 flat rate.
Besides raising revenue from millions of pilgrims and expats, the visa price rises are also seen as part of a wider ‘saudisation’ of the job market.
Around a third of the 30 million population are expats, mainly in blue collar work or the private sector, where pay or conditions can be poor.
Work visa applications
Up to 12% of Saudis are unemployed, but the government wants them to work to reduce reliance on expats.
The visa cost increases follow a new online jobs portal going live which demands all employers must advertise vacancies to Saudi workers before taking on foreign workers.
Jobs have to be open on the portal or Taqat for some time to allow Saudis to apply, but the government has yet to issue guidance on how this system will affect visa applications.
However, companies now have to apply for visas at a Saudi consulate or embassy in the applicant’s home country, while the applicant cannot enter Saudi Arabia until they have the visa.
This process takes at least three to four months to complete.
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