ISLAMABAD: More than 40,000 Pakistani expats in Saudi Arabia will benefit from the royal order to extend by three months and without charge, the validity of expired residency permits and exit and reentry visas, Pakistan’s ambassador to the Kingdom, Raja Ali Ejaz, told Arab News on Sunday.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman on Sunday approved the extension in order to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on expats working in Saudi Arabia.
Under the order, the residency permits and visas of expats inside the Kingdom of which the validity expired during the period of suspension of entry and exit from Saudi Arabia, will be extended for a period of three months free of cost. The validity of final exit visas, unused exit and return visas for expats will also be extended.
“More than 40,000 Pakistani expatriates will benefit from this facility,” Ambassador Ejaz said.
“It is a positive and welcoming step by Saudi Arabia that they have given three months’ extension in almost every relevant visa related issue for expatriates.”
He added around 15,000 Pakistani expats inside the Kingdom and over 25,000 who had traveled back to Pakistan, would be facilitated by the extension.
“There were many Pakistanis who went back on leave and could not come back after the suspension of flights due to coronavirus,” he continued.
“When they come back here [Saudi Arabia] to rejoin their work, their visas will be valid so they will not face any trouble.”
Furthermore, Ejaz said Pakistanis whose visas had expired but they had been unable to leave due to the limited availability of flights would also be beneficiaries, as the Saudi government had extended their final exit visas as well.
The extension facility will come into place free of cost-- a source of financial relief, Ejaz said, for the majority of Pakistani workers in unskilled labor positions.
Pakistan currently has more than 2.5 million expats living in Saudi Arabia, and makes up the country’s biggest overseas community.
According to Pakistan’s central bank data, Saudi Arabia has consistently remained for years Pakistan’s largest source of remittances.