New Kafala system offers more mobility to foreign workers in Saudi Arabia

The country’s amended ‘Kafala’ sponsorship system has been officially implemented

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The Kafala reforms have been implemented in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, offering more job mobility to foreign workers. The amendments to the old Kafala system now allow workers to transfer to another job on the termination of their work contracts without seeking permission from their employers. Also, henceforth, workers will have the freedom to enter and and leave the country without their employer’s permission.

To travel outside Saudi Arabia, migrant workers will simply need to submit an application with an electronic notification of the employer. Also, once the work contract comes to an end, a migrant employee can leave immediately with an electronic notification of the employer. An official permission from the employer will not be required.

Saudi Arabia’s ministry of human resources and social development announced last November it would amend the Kafala system in March 2021 under which workers who are tied to a single employer alone can renew or terminate their residency and work status in the country.

With improved job mobility, and better systems to enter and exit the country, the Saudi Human Resources Ministry hopes to make its labour market more attractive for expatriates.

The old Kafala system caused workers to be exploited by their sponsors or employers. The system had been followed for about seven decades and forced workers to enter into a bond even while working at lower wages than the locals.

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