RIYADH // A recently announced government amnesty for illegal foreigners does not cover expatriate workers, but only those who have overstayed visas issued for short visits to the kingdom, the Saudi interior ministry has said.
The amnesty "covers only the people who came to the kingdom with a short visa for a specific reason such as Haj, Umrah, [or] any type of visit," a ministry spokesman, Gen Mansour al Turki, wrote in an e-mail to The National.
Mr al Turki's clarification, which came in response to a query sent to the ministry last week, is the first official explanation of the amnesty. Illegal foreigners would be responsible for paying their own airfare home. Those wishing to depart under the amnesty should present "the passport used in entering the kingdom, or a travel document from his country's embassy in the kingdom" to the nearest Saudi passport department office.
Embassies of countries with large numbers of nationals working in Saudi Arabia, such as India and the Philippines, have told their nationals they are seeking details about the amnesty. Most of these workers are recruited in their home countries under the sponsorship system. As such, they are not free to change jobs or return home unless their employer and sponsor allows this.