Many expats feel fleeced by their diplomatic missions


Published: Nov 25, 2010 00:20 Updated: Nov 25, 2010 00:20

JEDDAH: Many expatriate workers say they are being fleeced by their own consulates that impose taxes on their income.

They claim the consulates will not renew passports unless their respective citizens pay a fixed tax.

An expatriate cannot live and work in the Kingdom without a valid passport and consequently has to find the money to pay the burdensome tax.

The consulates do not take into account the difficulties a worker might be facing at his workplace, particularly during a time of economic crisis. Even workers who have their salaries cut or are laid off from their jobs are not exempted from the tax.

If a worker’s passport is not renewed, his iqama will also not be renewed either and thus he becomes a lawbreaker who will be fined or jailed and, of course, deported.

The consulates raise the tax periodically with scant regard for the income of these overseas workers.

Some consulates even demand a letter from an employer stating the salary of the worker to calculate the tax, even if the employee is on a temporary job. In some cases when a worker cannot submit a salary certificate, his consulate charges him an unrealistic amount.

“My consulate demanded SR10,000 in tax arrears when I went there to renew my passport. I did not pay the taxes over the past eight years because I had only a small income and a large family to support. Besides, I did not have a steady job all this time,” Ali Saleh, an Eritrean overseas worker, told Arab News.

Many Eritrean expatriates fear that this rate of tax is likely to be hiked as a means to strengthen the finances of their country.

“The taxes are increased every year as the economic condition in my country is worsening,” an Eritrean cab driver in Jeddah said.

The plight of Sudanese expatriates is not any different.

“We also face the same problem. Our passports and other travel documents have to be renewed every two years after the payment of tax,” Jeddah-based Sudanese journalist Muhammad Abdul Raheem told Arab News, describing the tax system as a bane on overseas workers.

“You cannot evade paying the tax because your iqama has to be renewed every two years and in some cases annually.”

He added that the consulate classifies the Sudanese expatriates on the basis of their jobs.

“But the real problem comes when a man loses his job. Even then he will have to pay the tax and he is put in a dilemma with the rising commodity prices and the money demanded by his sponsor,” he said.


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