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Egypt to build first virtual hospital

Arab Finance: Egypt will establish its first virtual hospital for telemedicine in a bid to promote medical tourism, Al Arabiya reported, citing Chairman of the General Authority of Healthcare Ahmed ElSobky.

The virtual hospital will allow the provision of remote healthcare, allowing patients to obtain medical services easily while they are in their places.


Egypt prepares law on treating foreign tourists

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly met on Tuesday with Tourism and Antiquities Minister Ahmed Eissa to follow up on preparing the draft laws on dealing with foreign tourists and on regulating new tourism companies.

Eissa reviewed the most prominent achievements of the National Tourism Strategy in the tourism and antiquities sectors.

They meeting also touched on improving the investment climate regarding hotels and recreational activities.

The minister indicated that the plan for 2023 was implemented with the Cabinet approving the two proposed incentive packages to encourage the private sector to expand investment in building hotel rooms.

Regarding the reforming the legislative environment, Eissa referred to the issuance of a new law on establishing tourism chambers and organizing a union for them.

They have also worked to prepare the executive regulations for this law, in addition to preparing a draft law on dealing with foreign tourists and the general framework of a draft law regulating new tourism companies.

The minister explained that spending programs on marketing and promotional activities implemented by the Egyptian General Authority for Tourism Promotion have been redirected.

Spending on marketing, promotion and stimulating aviation has succeeded, he added.

The minister pointed out an increase in the volume of total spending, a decrease in credit balances, and an increase in bank balances during 2023, without relying on the state budget for any support.

He said that an integrated plan has been developed to increase the ability of the private sector to govern and influence spending policies on marketing and promotion, and the completion of preparing the executive regulations for the law establishing tourism chambers and organizing a union for them.

Eissa explained: "A set of facilities have already been approved for obtaining tourist visas, especially for incoming tourism from some Maghreb countries, Iraq, Turkey, China, and India, and the facilities began working in mid-April 2023."


Bus service between Sharjah and Oman to commence soon

Daily trips will be operated from Al Jubail Station in Sharjah to Al Azaiba Bus Station in Muscat and vice versa

The Sharjah Executive Council (SEC) has approved the launch of a transport service between Sharjah and Oman, following an agreement between the Sharjah Roads and Transport Authority (SRTA) and Oman National Transport Company - Mwasalat.

Daily trips will be operated from Al Jubail Station in Sharjah to Al Azaiba Bus Station in Muscat and vice versa.

Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and chairman of SEC approved the decision.

Travelling from Oman to the UAE is easier now

In other news, Mwasalat, Oman's national transport company, also resumed its bus service to the UAE in October last year.

The bus service starts from Muscat to Abu Dhabi and returns via Al Ain.

Other initiatives signed off by the SEC

During the SEC meeting, the launch of the Model Farmer's Guide was also approved.

The guide will support the emirate's goal to promote healthy food free of harmful substances as well as encourage community members to start sustainable agricultural projects and establish entrepreneurs in the productive agriculture field.

It will act also be a reference for emerging entrepreneurs and those interested in agricultural production, raising awareness and educating them on the sustainability of the agricultural production journey.

The council also approved exempting 102 projects from government agency fees by 50 per cent for two years. The projects have a total value of Dhs1.086m and include diverse economic activities across all cities and regions of the emirate. This applies to projects funded by Sharjah SME (RUWAD).


Dubai: New centre offering 54 residential services to citizens launched

It will provide support including consultancy for design, guidance on cost-saving measures and assistance with financing through banks

A new centre has been launched to provide residential services to citizens. The 'Dubai Integrated Housing Center' is located at Avenue Mall in Nad Al Sheba, and is scheduled to commence operations in February.

The centre was launched by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, and Chairman of Dubai's Higher Committee for Development and Citizens Affairs, under the directives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. It will provide 54 residential services for citizens - from four government departments and two private sector partners - under one roof.

Sheikh Hamdan said that establishing the new centre is a part of the Dubai Social Agenda 33, launched by the Ruler of Dubai under the theme of 'Family: The Foundation of Our Nation.'

He added that the centre will provide comprehensive support throughout the home-building process, including consultancy for design selection, guidance on cost-saving measures and assistance with financing through banks.

"Constructing a family home can be a challenging experience for many young individuals, demanding specific expertise and financial and legal awareness. Our aim is to transform this experience for citizens," Sheikh Hamdan said.

"We will continue to launch new projects in the next phase, reflecting our commitment to fostering stable families and ensuring the highest quality of life for them," he added.

The initiative aligns with one of Dubai Social Agenda 33's specific targets - ensuring the provision of land and a residential loan to every new Emirati family within a year of application.

The centre will address the diverse needs of citizens, with a specific focus on housing, construction and land services, including the selection and allocation of residential lands.

The government entities offering services through the centre include the Mohammed Bin Rashid Housing Establishment; Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority, Dubai Municipality and Dubai Land. Additionally, two private partners, Emirates Islamic Bank and Sobha Realty, are also contributing to the array of services offered.

Early this January, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid launched a Dh208 billion Dubai Social Agenda 33 to double the number of Emirati families in the emirate within a decade. He also set out plans to increase housing standards, health care and quality of life for citizens.


UAE: Citizens can now travel visa-free to this country

MoU signed on Thursday sees the mutual exemption of visa requirements for holders of ordinary, diplomatic, special and mission passports

UAE citizens can now travel visa-free to Uzbekistan after the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday.

The MoU sees the mutual exemption of visa requirements for holders of ordinary, diplomatic, special and mission passports.

UAE citizens holding valid passports for at least six months are exempt from the visa requirement for entry to Uzbekistan (instead of applying for an electronic visa which was applicable before) and can stay there for a period of up to 30 days per visit.

In return, citizens of Uzbekistan who hold biometric passports (international passports allowing them to travel abroad or domestic passports to return to Uzbekistan only) are also exempt from a visa to enter the UAE.


Revealed: Visa-free countries for Indian passport holders

Indian passport holders with a UAE residency visa enjoy visa-free entry to certain nations

The Indian passport ranks at number 70 on the global passport index, offering visa-free access to 29 countries and visa on arrival in 45 countries. With a mobility score of 74, the Indian passport has a world reach of 37 percent.

Here are all the visa-free and visa-on-arrival countries for Indian citizens:

Visa-free destinations

Angola30 days
Barbados90 days
Bhutan14 days
Dominica180 days
El Salvador90 days
Fiji120 days
Gabon30 days
Gambia90 days
Grenada90 days
Haiti90 days
Kazakhstan14 days
Kiribati90 days
Macao30 days
Malaysia30 days
Mauritius90 days
Micronesia30 days
Palestinian Territories
Rwanda30 days
Saint Kitts and Nevis90 days
Senegal90 days
St. Vincent and the Grenadines90 days
Thailand30 days
Trinidad and Tobago90 days
Vanuatu30 days

E-visa and visa on arrival destinations

Armenia120 days
Azerbaijan30 days
Bolivia90 days
Burundi30 days
Cambodia30 days
Cape Verde
Comoros45 days
Congo (Dem. Rep.)90 days
Equatorial Guinea
Ethiopia90 days
Guinea90 days
Guinea-Bissau90 days
Indonesia30 days
Iran30 days
Laos30 days
Lesotho14 days
Madagascar90 days
Malawi90 days
Maldives90 days
Marshall Islands90 days
Mongolia30 days
Myanmar30 days
Palau30 days
Papua New Guinea30 days
Qatar30 days
Russian Federation15 days
Saint Lucia42 days
Samoa90 days
Sierra Leone30 days
South Sudan
Sri Lanka30 days
Suriname90 days
Timor-Leste30 days
Togo15 days
Tuvalu30 days
Uzbekistan30 days
Vietnam90 days
Zimbabwe90 days

Indian passport holders still require visas for 123 countries including Canada, China, USA more. However, those with Indian passports and a UAE residency visa are eligible for visa-free entry to some countries


UAE: 3 categories exempted from late renewal fines for Emirates ID

Federal authority lists cases excused from penalty for not updating the card in time

There is no charge for applying for the exemption from late fees, which can be done through approved printing offices, or via the ICP website and smart app

Abu Dhabi: The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP) has specified the categories exempt from fines for the late renewal of the Emirates ID card.

Failure to renew or update the card within 30 days from the date of expiry can result in fines of Dh20 per day, which can go up to a maximum of Dh1,000.

However, Emiratis and expats can request exemptions from penalties under certain circumstances.


The ICP states on its website and social media channels that there are three categories that are exempt from late fines related to the Emirates ID card:

1. An individual who left the UAE and spent more than three months outside the country, and the validity of his or her card expired after the date of their departure from the country.

2. An individual whose identity card has expired after being deported by a court order, an administrative decision, or a judicial ruling, or whose passport is seized pending cases, provided that this is proven by a letter or a receipt issued by the competent authorities that deported him or suspended the pending cases.

3. An individual who has not been issued an identity card for the period before obtaining the nationality of the UAE and before obtaining the family book.

Applying for the Emirates ID late penalty exemption is free of charge. To initiate the exemption request, individuals must start by submitting a request for ID card renewal through one of the approved printing offices, electronically through the ICP website or via the smart application.

Obtaining an Emirates ID card is mandatory for all residents of the UAE, including Emiratis, citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and expats residing in the UAE. Any person included in one of these categories is required to apply for an ID card from the ICP and renew it when it expires.


Saudi rent payment system switches to Ejar from Jan 15

The streamlined electronic service for rent payments aims to improve efficiency, transparency and ease of access for tenants and their landlords

If you rent your residence in Saudi Arabia then you should know about this major change to the way payments are made come the second week of January.

The country's Real Estate General Authority (REGA) has mandated that all monetary transactions or rent payments will have to be made through the newly launched 'Ejar' platform. This change goes into effect from January 15.

What does it mean?

This means that all residential rent payments, and proof of payment outside the approved digital channels will not be accepted, the Saudi Press Agency reported."After January 15, any proof of rent payment operations outside the framework of digital channels of Mada and SADAD on Ejar, using the number 153, will not be counted. As of now, this directive does not include commercial rent contracts," it said.

The authority said that payment of rent through Ejar includes all new residential rental contracts.

The change comes into effect after a decision by the Saudi Cabinet which called for a streamlined electronic service for rent payments to improve efficiency, transparency and ease of access for tenants and their landlords.

Officials said that Ejar aims to preserve the rights of tenants throughout the rental process, from the initial inspection of the property to the signing of the contract with the landlord, who is then obliged to perform regular maintenance and is responsible for the safety of the building.

How does it work?

Digital payments can be made through Ejar's Mada or SADAD channels, or using the postpaid number 153.

The step begins with the landlord and tenant documenting the contract on Ejar through a real estate broker licensed by the authority, and then using the digital payment channels on Ejar to conduct payment operations, where the rental payment, after being paid through the digital channels, reaches the bank account of the landlord registered in the rental contract within five working days.

The authority said it will begin to phase out receipts for payments because they will be settled automatically through the digital channels, with no need for a separate receipt.

The authority clarified on social media platform X, that, "If the contract is deemed valid and payment is made prior to the mandatory due date via the Ejar platform, the tenant has the option to complete the payment through a bank transfer to either the intermediary or the landlord," it said.

"Alternatively, cash payment is accepted, contingent upon the submission of a request for the issuance of an electronic receipt."

Benefits of Ejar platform

REGA added that digital payments through Ejar offer a number of advantages and benefits in the rental process:

It safeguards the rights of all parties,

Proper documentation of all payments,

Improved transparency in the sector,

The reduction of real estate fraud


Saudi Arabia introduces new visas for investors and entrepreneurs

The five categories are in line with the kingdom's economic diversification goalSaudi Arabia has launched five new visas to attract skilled professionals and investors as the Arab world's biggest economy seeks to strengthen its position as a global centre for business.

The "premium residency products" are in line with the kingdom's goals to drive economic transformation, create employment opportunities and increase knowledge transfer, Majid bin Alkassabi, chairman of Saudi Arabia's board of the Premium Residency Centre, said on Wednesday.

The new visa categories of special talent, gifted, investor, entrepreneur, and real estate owner residency will offer holders "unparalleled opportunities for settling in Saudi Arabia", he said.

The special visas "offer a wide range of benefits to holders, including the ability to conduct business, own real estate, obtain work permits for holders and family members, and many more advantages".

He did not, however, give details of the length of new special visas nor the cost investors and entrepreneurs will have to pay to obtain them.

Saudi Arabia, Opec's biggest oil producer, aims to cut its reliance on the sale of hydrocarbons and diversify its economy away from oil.

Expansion of its industrial base, creating jobs, boosting knowledge exchange and increasing foreign direct investment are among the main pillars of the kingdom's Vision 2030 agenda.

Saudi Arabia opened up several sectors for public-private partnerships and has introduced several schemes, including dedicated industry free zones and tax rebates, to attract new talent and investors to the kingdom.

It also introduced regulation for foreign companies to set up regional headquarters in the kingdom to support the country's non-oil economy. The kingdom hopes to have 480 global companies establish headquarters in the kingdom by 2030 as part of efforts to improve economic output.

In October 2021, 44 companies received government licences to set up headquarters in the country. The companies that had already relocated their regional headquarters by then included PepsiCo, DiDi, Unilever, Siemens, KPMG, Novartis, Baker Hughes, Halliburton, Philips, Flour, Schlumberger, SAP, PwC, Oyo, Boston Scientific and Tim Hortons.

The regional headquarters programme, an initiative by the Ministry of Investment and the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, aims to attract multinational companies by offering benefits and premium support services including a 30-year tax break.

Mr Alkassabi said the five new visa products have been developed in collaboration with the Premium Residency Centre's strategic partners across several government entities.

The special talent residency caters to executives and professionals who specialise in health care, science and research. It aims to attract individuals with unique skills and experiences who can contribute to knowledge and technology transfers.

The residency aims to integrate skilled professionals and talented individuals into Saudi Arabia's growing cultural and sport sectors.

The investor residency is designed for investors "looking to capitalise on Saudi's thriving business landscape and generate high-impact returns from across the economy", Mr Alkassabi said.

The entrepreneur residency is intended for "aspiring entrepreneurs and owners of innovative projects" looking to set up their start-ups in the kingdom.

The real estate owners visa is designed for individuals looking to benefit from the country's fast-growing real estate market, according to Mr Alkassabi.

"The doors to all premium residency products are open to those who can add value to the national economy and actively participate in Saudi Arabia's rapid development journey under Saudi Vision 2030," he said.


6 cases of exemption that allow dealing with companies lacking a regional HQ in KSA

The Saudi authorities revealed that there are six circumstances under which government agencies can conclude contracts with multinational companies, which do not have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom, and other relevant parties for the year 1445AH. The regulations impacting government contracts with companies lacking regional headquarters in the Kingdom came into force on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. This is based on a decision taken by the Council of Ministers on Dec. 26, 2023.

According to the regulations, adopted by the Cabinet, it is not permissible for the government agencies to contract with companies that do not have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom or any related party. However, there are certain exemptions for this and that is in accordance with the provisions of the approved regulations.

It is mandatory on the part of all government agencies to comply with the regulations, whether they are subject to the provisions the Government Competitions and Procurement Law or any other regulations. These regulations are complementary to the provisions that government agencies must apply when implementing their works and securing their purchases.

The circumstances under which exemptions given for companies that do not have a regional headquarters include the following: Businesses and purchases that are implemented outside the Kingdom; and the works and purchases whose estimated cost does not exceed SR1 million. However, the minister of finance can approve a decision to make amendments regarding this amount or cancel this exemption or stop working with it temporarily, and that is in accordance with serving the public interest.

The companies that do not have regional headquarters in the Kingdom can submit tenders for any public competition offered by government agencies under one of the two occasions. The first is that there is no more than one technically acceptable tender, and the second is that the tender submitted by the company that does not have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom is the best one after the overall technical evaluation and its quoted amount is 25 percent less than the quoted second best offer.

According to the regulations, the government agencies may not invite companies that do not have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom to participate in limited competitions or direct contracting except in the following two cases. First, the absence of more than one qualified competitor from companies that have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom or that businesses or purchases are exclusively available with only those companies that do not have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom so as to carry out works or secure the required purchases. Second, the existence of an emergency case that can only be dealt with through an invitation to submit bid, or direct contract with companies that do not have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom.

It is mandatory on the part of the government agencies that conclude contracts with companies that do not have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom to prepare a report that includes the reasons that necessitated concluding the contract. A copy of the report shall be supplied to the Supreme Committee of the Saudi Program to Attract Regional Headquarters of International Companies as well as to the general secretariat of the committee within a period not exceeding 30 working days from the date of signing the contract.

The regulations approved the formation of a committee called the Exemption Committee from the Regulations of government agencies with companies that do not have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom and relevant parties. This committee, which will be associated with the Local Content and Government Procurement Authority, is tasked to examine the requests of government agencies with regard to giving exemption to companies that do not have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom from the regulations and take a decision on them.

The regulations stipulated that an exemption request to contract with the company that does not have a regional headquarters in the Kingdom shall be submitted before inviting tender or starting direct contracting procedures. The government agency may submit the application to attend the committee's meeting to consider its request to discuss the request without having the right to vote on the decision that will be taken regarding it.

Under the regulations, the agencies that submit the application are entitled to object to the committee's decision before the Supreme Committee of the Saudi Program to Attract Regional Headquarters of International Companies and the committee's decision on the objection will be final and binding.


Ejar: Landlord can approach court seeking fine if tenant violates terms of contract

JEDDAH- The Ejar platform revealed that the landlord is entitled to approach court seeking fine for each day of delay if the tenant refuses to vacate the property after the expiry of the duration of the contract. This measure can be taken only if there was a condition in the contract that a fine would be imposed on the tenant in the event of his delay in vacating the property after the expiry of the period of the rental contract.

The Ejar said this in a statement posted on its X account, in response to an inquiry by a person about the mechanism through which the tenant can be asked for rent if he is late in vacating the property after the end of the contract period. "When there is an option of imposing a fine on a daily basis in the contract, a claim can be made for each day of delay through the execution court if the contract is an executive document. The landlord can approach the judiciary if the contract is a non-executive document," it said.

The Real Estate General Authority announced recently that it has begun restricting the financial transactions related to rent payment operations through digital channels of Ejar platform, starting from Jan. 15. The digital payment channels, approved by Ejar, are Mada or SADAD through using the biller number 153. Ejar clarified that adopting the payment mechanism through digital channels on the platform comes in implementation of the decision of the Council of Ministers.

The authority clarified that payment of rent through Ejar includes all new residential rental contracts. "After Jan. 15, any proof of rent payment operations outside the framework of digital channels of Mada and SADAD on Ejar, using the number 153, will not be counted. As of now, this directive does not include commercial rent contracts," it said.


Saudi Arabia lifts 3-year entry ban on expats who fail to return before expiry of visa

RIYADH - The General Directorate of Passports (Jawazat) has instructed all departments and land, sea and air ports to allow the entry of expatriates, who failed to return before the expiry of their exit and reentry visa, Okaz newspaper reported.

The Jawazat lifted the existing three-year ban on foreign workers who left the Kingdom on exit and reentry visa and failed to return before the expiry of the visa. The new directive came into force on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

The directorate enforced the ban earlier following demands made by businessmen to prevent the reentry of those who did not return within the valid period of the exit and reentry visa.

The businessmen's demand was based on the decision of the Council of Ministers not to allow the return of workers who did not come back on time.

They noted that such acts of some workers incur on them financial losses in terms of the fees for the renewal of their residency permits (iqama), work permits and return tickets of these workers before their departure.

The businessmen also noted the workers' failure to return on time means causing them to terminate their contracts and thus harming their interests and affecting the stability of the employment market.

The Jawazat also reemphasized the following conditions for the issuance of an exit and re-entry visa:

The worker must pay all outstanding traffic violation fines; there should be no violation that resulted in not canceling a previously issued and unused visa;

The worker does not have a valid visa; and the presence of the individual to whom the visa is to be issued within the Kingdom's territory.

The conditions also include the 90-day or more validity of the worker's passport, and the presence of a fingerprint of the individual to whom the visa is to be issued.


NEOM in deal to set up Marriott hotel apartments at Sindalah

NEOM, the developer of Saudi futuristic city, has reached an agreement with global hospitality major Marriott International to set up its hotel apartments complex within its luxury island destination Sindalah in the Red Sea off Saudi Arabia's northwest coast.

Designed to cater to travellers seeking more residential amenities, the Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy Sindalah will feature units ranging from studios to one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, all equipped with a separate living room, full kitchen, and in-unit washer and dryer, said the statement from NEOM.

The signing of deal marks the fourth collaboration between NEOM and Marriott International on the luxury island, which will also include two Luxury Collection properties and an Autograph Collection Hotel.

The Luxury Collection properties will include a beach resort offering a mix of 70 luxury rooms and suites with private pools. The second Luxury Collection project will be an all-suite property offering, situated in the heart of the retail and marina district.

The Autograph Collection property is anticipated to offer 66 rooms and suites, multiple dining options and a spa.

Chris Newman, the Executive Director of NEOM Hotel division, said: "Marriott International has deep insights into the continuously evolving preferences of global travelers. It positions them as a perfect partner for us as we look to develop an array of accommodation options to meet the needs of Sindalah visitors."

"We are excited to strengthen our partnership by introducing their new brand to the region, which will elevate the guest experience for a growing number of groups traveling together," he stated.

The property, set to open in 2024, is also slated to offer a fitness centre and swimming pool, he added.

Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy will offer premium and luxury apartment-style accommodations to meet the increased demand from families and younger travellers, who now seek more space and homely amenities when staying away from home.

Chadi Hauch, Regional Vice President, Lodging Development, Middle East, Marriott International, said: "We continue to strengthen our collaboration with NEOM with the signing of our first Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy in the Middle East."

"We continue to see a growing desire for premium and luxury apartment-style accommodation among travellers. Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy will be a great fit for Sindalah which is anticipated to offer our guests and members exciting, year-long travel experiences on the island," he added.

Antoni Vives, the Chief Urban Planning and Islands Officer at NEOM, said: "We are proud to be introducing the first Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy to the Middle East adding another tier to our luxury accommodation offering."

"We understand the desires of our guests travelling with family or a group of friends to have more space to relax. Located near the promenade close to culinary experiences and luxury fashion, Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy will meet those needs to linger longer, for a comfortable and luxurious stay. We are excited to start welcoming guests so that they can experience all that Sindalah has to offer," he added.


New premium residency categories will allow foreigners to buy property, invest in Saudi Arabia

Unlimited plan costs SR800,000, while one-year plan SR100,000 with series of benefits

Eligible applicants can sign up for the permit that allows them to live and work in the Kingdom and receive benefits such as exemption from paying expat and dependents fees.

Dubai: Saudi Arabia has added five new categories allowing eligible applicants to sign up for residency permit, in a move that aims to ease the process for residents who wish to apply for the visa scheme.

The categories are: Skilled and talented individuals (specialists, executives), talents (cultural, sports), investors, entrepreneurs and property owners.

Eligible applicants can sign up for the permit that allows them to live and work in the Kingdom and receive benefits such as exemption from paying expat and dependents fees.

The residency permit, costing a one-off fee of SR4,000 ($1,066), also grants foreign nationals the right to own businesses and property in the country without requiring a sponsor.

They are permitted to own property, including residential, commercial and industrial in all areas of Saudi Arabia, excluding Mecca, Madina and the border regions.

The holders of residency permits will be able to obtain premium residency status for their family members, run businesses, make fee-free money transfers, and host and invite relatives.

They the right to reside in the Kingdom for an extended period of one year (renewable) or an unlimited duration, depending on the plan they select when applying.

The unlimited plan costs $213,320 (SR800,000), while the one-year plan is $26,665 (SR100,000), and for individuals applying under the five new categories, the Premium Residency is priced at $1,066 (SR 4,000).

Premium residents are also allowed to leave and re-enter Saudi Arabia freely and as often as they please. They can also invest in the Saudi Capital Market.


Kuwait halts fine-for-amnesty scheme for illegal residents

Kuwait International Airport in Farwaniya Governorate. Kuwait deported record 42,000 expatriates last year for violations of the country's residence and labour laws as well as for involvement in crimes

Kuwaiti authorities have halted a short-lived decree allowing illegal expatriates who came to the country before the year 2020 to readjust their status in return for paying specific fines, Kuwaiti media reported.

"The Interior Ministry is going ahead with its plan to deport violators of residency rules from the country as was the case over the past period," a security source was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Kuwaiti newspaper Al Anba cited verbal instructions at the Interior Ministry halting implementation of the decree in question that was issued days earlier.

The number of illegals, who were supposed to benefit from this arrangement, reached around 110,000 foreigners, the paper quoted a security source as saying.

Kuwait deported record 42,000 expatriates last year for violations of the country's residence and labour laws as well as for involvement in crimes, according to Kuwaiti newspaper Al Qabas.

Kuwait has recently toughened measures against illegal foreign residents and warned that any expatriate covering up an unlawful resident will be deported too.

Kuwaiti individuals or companies employing illegals will face charges of unlawfully sheltering and covering up illegals.

Foreigners make up around 3.2 million of Kuwait's overall population of 4.6 million.

The country is endeavouring to redress its population imbalance and replace foreign workers with its citizens as part of an employment policy dubbed "Kuwaitisation".

There have recently been increasing calls in Kuwait for curbing foreigners' employment along accusations that migrant workers have strained the country's infrastructure facilities amid economic repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Kuwait sets fee limits for hiring domestic workers

New fee structure caps cost of hiring domestic workers from Asian countries at KD750

Kuwait's Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mohammad Al Aiban, has issued a directive setting a maximum fee that can be charged for recruiting domestic workers.

The decision, aligning with the recommendations of First Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Talal Khaled Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, revises Ministerial Resolution No. 103/2022 to include the cost of travel in the recruitment fee.

The new fee structure caps the cost of hiring domestic workers from Asian countries at KD750 (about Dh9,000), African countries at KD575, and KD350 for individuals with a special passport provided by the sponsor.

The measure is designed to resolve disputes involving recruitment offices and ensure fair compensation for employers in case of contract breaches by domestic workers.

As per the latest data from the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI), Kuwait hosts 811,307 registered domestic workers.

The majority are from India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, with smaller numbers from Ethiopia, Benin, Indonesia, Mali, and Madagascar.


Kuwait Announces Major Change to Expat Visas

Kuwait has announced the resumption of expat family visas, starting from January 28.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Interior announced it would resume handling expat requests for family visas at all departments of residency affairs across the country under new terms and standards.

It means expats in the country will be able to apply to sponsor wives and children.

Kuwait family visas

Family visas for expats in Kuwait were suspended around two years ago in an attempt to regulate population and demographic numbers in the country. Certain conditions must be met, including minimum salary and employment rules apply.

This decision was made upon the directives of Deputy Prime Minister, Defence Minister and Acting Interior Minister Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah, the Ministry's department of security relations and media in a statement.

The requests will be accepted based on the ministerial decree No. 56 of 2024, which sets new rules for issuing entry permits for family reunions, it noted.

Among these terms are the expat applying for the Kuwait family visa:

Must have a salary of at least KD800 ($2,600)

They should have a university degree certificate

They must be employed in the same field as they studied (as per University certificate)


14 professions exempted from university degree for dependent visas

Children below 5 are eligible if both parents working in Kuwait

Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and Acting Minister of Interior, Fahd Al-Yousef, issued a decision modifying certain provisions of Ministerial Resolution 957 from 2019 within the executive regulations of the Expats' Residence Law. This revision outlines the criteria for acquiring regular residency to reunite with family members. Arabic daily Al Anba reported as follows:

The key amendments in Article 29 are:

To apply for a dependent / family visa (for newcomers) the monthly salary should not be less than KD 800, the sponsor should be a university graduate and the profession should align with the qualification. Professions exempted from university degrees mentioned in Article 30 of this decision list are mentioned below.

Those born in Kuwait and individuals born outside the country with an age not exceeding 5 years, whose parents are in Kuwait (with valid residence) are exempted from the salary requirement by the Director General of the General Administration of Residence Affairs. This exemption is per the guidelines and conditions set by the General Administration of Residence Affairs

The second article specifies that the acting Undersecretary is responsible for implementing this decision, and it will take effect from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.

Professions mentioned in Article 30 of Ministerial Resolution No. 957/2019

1. Advisors, judges, prosecutors, experts, and legal researchers within the government sector.
2. Medical professionals, including doctors and pharmacists.
3. Professors of universities, colleges, and higher institutes
4. School administrators, vice principals, education mentors, teachers, social workers, and laboratory attendants within the government sector
5. Advisors specializing in financial and economic matters in universities
6. Engineers
7. Individuals serving as imams, preachers, and muezzins in mosques
8. Librarians in both government agencies and private universities
9. Personnel working in the Ministry of Health within the nursing staff, encompassing nurses, paramedics, and those holding medical technical positions in diverse specialties, as well as individuals in social service roles
10. Social workers and psychologists within the government sector
11. Professionals in journalism, media, and correspondents
12. Coaches and athletes associated with federations and sports clubs
13. Pilots and flight attendants
14. Individuals responsible for preparing the deceased and overseeing their burial


Bahrain to Consider Stopping Conversion of Visit Visa Into Work Visa

The Bahrain Parliament is preparing to discuss a proposed law that aims to prohibit the conversion of visit visas into work visas during tomorrow's session.

The proponents of the proposal argue that it is necessary to ensure job opportunities for Bahraini citizens, reduce unemployment rates, strengthen the national workforce, and prioritize the employment of Bahraini nationals.

However, the Ministry of Tourism has expressed reservations about regulating visas through legislation.

The ministry suggests that administrative decisions, rather than a law, would provide the necessary flexibility required in visa regulation.

It points out that different countries have successfully regulated visas through administrative measures, allowing for adaptability in addressing relevant issues.

In its response to the Parliament, the ministry emphasised that administrative decisions provide the appropriate flexibility in handling visa matters.

It also allows the executive authority to objectively assess the changing circumstances and adjust regulations accordingly, in line with the kingdom's overall interests and plans.

The ministry called for further study of the proposal, taking into account the Kingdom's plans to stimulate various economic sectors.

Tightening controls Furthermore, the Ministry of Interior affirmed that the General Directorate of Nationality, Passports, and Residence Affairs (NPRA) is tightening controls on all visas and residence permits, including tourist visas and work permits.

Stricter regulations are being enforced for obtaining and converting visas, including requiring sponsors to commit not to convert visitor visas into work permits, the ministry pointed out.

The ministry also ensured that requests for visit visas are not converted into work visas, among other measures.

The ministry clarified that the role of the General Directorate of Nationality, Passports, and Residence primarily focuses on security aspects.

The processing of each visa or residence permit is determined based on its specific type and the fulfillment of corresponding requirements, it explained.

Meanwhile, the National Institution for Human Rights cautioned that allowing visitors to convert their visas into work permits without restrictions could increase unemployment rates among Bahraini citizens and undermine the national workforce plan, which aims to prioritise Bahrainis for employment opportunities.


Bahrain Explores Linking Expats' Driving License With Residence Permit

The lawmakers in Bahrain are set to deliberate a proposal to reduce the validity of expatriates' driving licenses to align them with their residence permits' validity.

Led by Jalal Kadhem, five MPs have tabled the amendment to the 2014 Traffic Law, asserting it would address violations by expats overstaying post-work permit expiration and engaging in unauthorized work, notably driving unlicensed taxis.

Advocates of the amendment believe this measure could address traffic congestion, curbing the number of licenses issued. Presently, both Bahrainis and expatriates are granted five-year driving permits but the amendment seeks to make it more tight.

The proposal enjoys support from the Parliament's foreign affairs, defense, and national security committee but faces opposition from Bahrain's Interior Ministry, which urges MPs to reject it.

In response to concerns about human rights implications, the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) assured that the proposal doesn't block expat movement or infringe upon their rights. It clarified that the measure is purely organizational and doesn't violate equality or international human rights conventions.


Part-time work allowed for Article 18 visa holders

In a landmark decision that ushers in a new era of employment flexibility, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Talal Al-Khaled approved part-time work for workers in the private sector (holding Article 18 work permit) starting from January 2024.

However, the worker will have to first obtain approval from their original employer and then a 'part-time work permit' from the Public authority of Manpower. The maximum work hours under the part-time work permit is limited to four hours a day, with the contracting sector excluded from this limit due to the increased need for workers in this sector.

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