15 Years Jail and SR 1 million fine for keeping the passports of workers

All of us know that employers in Saudi Arabia hold the passports of their employees who are under their sponsorship. However, only a few of us know about the legality of this act of holding passports of employees by Kafeel. Kafeel holds passport and hands over to the employees when they are leaving for a temporary or permanent basis from Saudi Arabia.

They have to surrender the passport to Kafeel when they are back from their country. Most of the times expatriates have to face a lot of trouble when their Kafeel is out of the Kingdom or out of the city and they have to go back to their country on an emergency basis. In few cases, Kafeel blackmails them and expatriates cannot do anything as their passport is with their Kafeel.

Ministers Resolution No. 166 dated 12-04-1421H: When I searched for this issue, I came to know that holding a passport by the employer is illegal. Every employee has a right to keep his passport in his own custody. If an employer holds passports of his employees, he is violating the Council of Ministers Resolution No. 166 dated 12-04-1421H. – Arab News

In July 2000, Council of Ministers passed a resolution preventing employers from holding the passport of employers. Some employers think that holding an employee’s passport will prevent him from running away. But this does not act as a deterrent for employees, many of whom run away leaving their passports with their employers.

15 Years Jail and SR 1 million fine: The Public Prosecution has warned employers against exercising their influence to force their employees either to work under coercion or involve in any practices akin to slavery. “This shall be deemed as human trafficking that entails penalties including the maximum jail term of 15 years and fines amounting to SR1 million,” it said.

The Public Prosecution noted that Article 6 of the law to combat human trafficking stipulates that jail terms not exceeding 15 years or fined not more than SR1 million or of both will be awarded to all those employers who use physical force or threaten or terrorize their employees or deprive them of some benefits or persuade them to produce forged certificates. (Saudi Gazette)

Rights of Expatriates in Saudi Arabia: It is a matter of fact that we face many problems in Saudi Arabia just because we do not know about the laws and regulations here. Keeping in view it, I have published an article regarding “Rights of Expatriates in Saudi Arabia”. You should have a look at it.

Employees have the right to sue the employer who is keeping the passport of the employee in his custody. Your passport is your property and no one else can take it from you. (Arab News)


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Steve has been living in Saudi Arabia since 2013 and writing about Saudi rules, regulations, guides, and procedures since then.