Saudi Arabia announces major changes to Kafala system


Foreign workers in Saudi Arabia are now able to switch jobs without their employers’ permission after the long-awaited labour reforms in the Gulf region’s most populous country went into effect.

According to Al Arabiya, the country’s improved reforms on its “Kafala” sponsorship system officially came into effect on Sunday.

The Kafala system previously tied workers to their employers, or sponsors, who are responsible for the employees’ visa and legal status.

Last November, the country’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development announced the country would implement new conditions for expatriate workers starting March 2021, with the goal of improving the Kafala sponsorship system.

  • Under the kingdom’s revised system, migrant workers can switch jobs upon the expiry of their work contract.
  • Workers will also be able to transfer jobs during the validity of their contract provided they notify their employers within a set timeframe.
  • Workers will also be exempt from “exit authorisation”, allowing them to travel indefinitely without the permission of their employers.

Expat workers will be able to travel outside Saudi Arabia, upon submitting an application, with an online notification to the employer without the need to seek prior permission.

A ‘final exit’ stipulation will also allow a migrant worker to leave immediately after the end of their contract, with an online notification sent to an employer without requiring his or her consent.

According to Arab News, as many as 10 million migrant workers are expected to benefit from changes under the Kingdom’s Labor Reform Initiative (LRI), intended to foster “a competitive and fair working environment.”

Image: Shutterstock

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