In a breather to thousands of undocumented expats including Keralites, Saudi ruler King Abdullah has extended the 'Nitaqat' grace period and given them four more months to have their status corrected.
A royal order cited by a Ministry of Interior statement and carried by the Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday said the three-month grace period, which ends on July 4, will be extended to the end of the current Hijra year 1434, that is November 4, 2013.
Once the new deadline expires, inspections by appropriate agencies such as the labour and interior ministries, will resume in various regions of the kingdom and all penalties will apply to violators, the statement said.
This is the second time the kingdom has given relief to the expatriates, as 'Nitaqat' was originally supposed to end in March and the King had given a three-month extension.
Saudi Press Agency said the new deadline would allow many expats to complete their undocumented work. The interior and labour ministries urged all undocumented expatriates to come forward and have their status corrected.
Various embassies and consulates as well as Saudi business groups have asked for relaxation in the rule, saying the July 4 deadline was not enough, considering the huge number of foreigners seeking to avail themselves of the amnesty programme.
The Ministry of Labour underscored the need to extend the grace period, failing which a large number of people will have to be relocated ahead of the holy month of Ramzan beginning on July 10. The number of Umra pilgrims will see an uptick in the month.
According to the data available with Norka Roots of the State government, 8,559 Keralites have returned to the state in the three months since April 2, after Saudi Arabia first gave a three-month ultimatum.
Of them, as many as 4,984 persons came via the Kozhikode airport, while 2,015 reached home via the Thiruvananthapuram airport and 651 used the Nedumbassery airport. And 909 persons came via other airports registered online.
Welcoming the Saudi gesture, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said Saudi Arabia has reacted positively to India’s demand. “We have asked the Indian embassy in Saudi to provide every possible help to the Indians who are returning home, and appealed to Air India officials not to fleece the returnees,” he said.
As per the 'Nitaqat' law, every firm in the kingdom, private or government-run, has to reserve 10 per cent of jobs for Saudi nationals.
Those expats found without work permit or valid documents could be arrested and heavily penalised.