Thursday, May 05, 2005

Losing one’s iqama is not a good thing to do

Identification Cards

Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, foreign instructors must give their passports to Dar Al Fikr School for safekeeping. At that time the School applies to the Saudi Arabian government for an identity and residence card called an iqama to be issued to the instructor for use within the Kingdom.

Moslems receive white iqamas, non-Moslems receive brown ones. The cards are issued for two years each, and sponsors are responsible for renewing them when they expire.

Instructors who leave the Kingdom on holidays, vacations and official school business reclaim their passports and leave their iqamas at the school. Upon returning to the Kingdom, they return their passports to the school and reclaim their iqamas. Upon leaving Saudi Arabia on exit-only visas, they reclaim their passports and give up their iqamas permanently.

Just as Saudi nationals are required to carry their national identity cards at all times, so too expatriate employees are required to carry their iqamas at all times. In addition to using them for identification in most business and government transactions, foreign employees must attach photocopies of them to drivers license applications, car registrations, and all sorts of other documents.

Transferable iqamas are issued to technical and professional employees, which includes Dar Al Fikr instructors. These iqamas allow employers to release employees from their contracts within Saudi Arabia and transfer sponsorship to other Saudi employers. In other words, if you have a transferable iqama, you can take another job in Saudi Arabia when your current contract ends IF your current sponsor agrees to the transfer. The new sponsor then assumes full responsibility for the employee, including responsibility for returning the employee to his home country when his contract ends.

Nontransferable iqamas are issued to laborers and unskilled workers; their sponsors must return them to their countries of origin when their contracts end.

A expatriate man working in Saudi Arabia always receives his own iqama in conjunction with his own contract and his own visa. An expatriate woman who lives in Saudi Arabia is listed on her husband’s iqama if she simply accompanies her husband (joint iqama). If she comes to work on her own employment contract, whether she is married or single, she receives her own iqama (separate iqamas). If a woman accompanies her husband to Saudi Arabia without making prior arrangements to work in the Kingdom then finds a job after she arrives, her name will be removed from her husband’s iqama and she will receive a separate iqama.

If you lose your iqama, you must notify the police and run an advertisement in the local newspapers. Then you must take a copy of the ad, a letter from your sponsor and SR 1000 to the Passport Office and apply for a replacement. Then you must wait for a month or so to receive the new one, during which time all of those activities that depend on having an iqama are interrupted or delayed.

Losing one’s iqama is not a good thing to do.

-Woodrow W. Denham -- Saudi Arabia: Dar Al Fikr Faculty Handbook 1990



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