by Expatguru - 06/28/2013
"This article gives information on recent changes in Saudi labor law involving female teachers and analyzes what it means for potential teachers in the kingdom.
A lot of activity has been going on in the past three months in the employment front in Saudi Arabia. As mentioned in my previous articles, a large number of expat workers, most of them unskilled laborers, had either absconded from their original sponsors to work elsewhere or were running illegal businesses. Over a period of time, the number of such illegal workers had risen to a substantial number. As part of a program called 'Nitaqat' which aims to provide employment to its own citizens, the Saudi Government started cracking down on such illegal workers in the kingdom.
Sensing the impact an abrupt expulsion of these illegal workers would have on its economy, the Saudi king announced a 3-month amnesty period within which all illegal workers could choose to either leave the country without facing penalty / imprisonment or to set right their papers and become legal workers. The amnesty period ends on July 3rd, 2013 and though there is widespread speculation and expectation of an extension of this date, nothing official has been announced until now.
One of the recent rules set by the Ministry of Labor directed that wives of expats who were under the sponsorship of their husbands in the kingdom were no longer allowed to work as teachers in the kingdom unless they transferred their sponsorship to their respective schools’ custody. This sudden decision threw international schools completely out of gear as many schools were dependent on spouses of expats to make good the acute shortage of teachers. With this changed rule, none of such teachers could work legally unless they got their sponsorships transferred from their husbands to that of the institutions where they wanted to work. This led to quite a peculiar situation. Schools faced a sudden shortage of teachers while households had to re-calculate their budgets to take care of the sudden loss of jobs.
After a lot of representations from expat teachers as well as Saudi businessmen, the Ministry of Labor has recalled the rule and has now allowed wives of expats to work in schools as before, even if they were on their husbands’ sponsorship. This exception has been made specifically only for female teachers. This has come as quite a relief to the expat community and to students. The interesting point is that the only exception made to the new rule is for female teachers. For all other professions, it is absolutely mandatory for every expat to work only under his or her sponsor. In fact, the new rule imposes extremely strict penalties such as a fine of SR 100,000 and imprisonment for those found working illegally. Rest assured that there is absolutely no cause for worry for all legal workers.
There is an important piece of information which I would like to highlight. Female teachers who are directly under the sponsorship of their schools and have family status can sponsor their husbands, but in such cases the husbands are not allowed to work. It makes sense because they are technically dependents of their spouses and if they seek employment elsewhere, they would automatically become illegal workers. They can obtain employment only if they obtain a proper work visa from a Saudi sponsor. For this to happen, they must first come out of the sponsorship of their spouses by correcting their visa status from a dependent visa to a work visa.
For teachers who are hired fresh from abroad, there is absolutely no problem because they would in any case be under the sponsorship of their employer. But for those planning to bring their spouses, it is important to be aware of this new rule.