Jeddah: NRIs in Saudi Arabia are a worried lot as the country is initiating drastic labour reforms. The Professional Verification programme that is part of the new Labour Reforms Initiative (LRI) to evaluate the skills of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia’s private sector is likely to come as a dampener and cut down the size of the Indian unskilled workforce in the Kingdom. This segment, which constitutes significant numbers, is bracing for ripple effects of verification in the months ahead.
The programme aims to verify that all skilled workers in Saudi Arabia have the required skills to perform the occupation they were recruited for, and will include practical and theoretical examinations in the workers’ specialised fields. It will target more than 1,000 professions belonging to 23 fields as per the Saudi Standard Classification of Occupations.
The Professional Verification programme will be gradually implemented in all firms in Saudi Arabia, based on their size, beginning July 2021. Until the mandatory requirements are implemented, businesses are encouraged to voluntarily participate in the programme by registering through an electronic portal.
The programme will limit the number of eligible applicants for positions in Saudi Arabia as some NRIs and also other foreign nationals may not have the training or experience required to pass the examination.
Already those working in the Kingdom required to qualify for the exams to continue their jobs. Foreign workers are given the option to write exams in their different foreign languages besides Arabic and English. Indians may opt for Hindi and Urdu besides English, there is no other Indian language available so far, according to reports.
The three attempts would be given to appear for the examination. The examinations will be conducted in 13 cities across the Kingdom and the validity of passing the exam will be five years.
The Iqama renewal is directly linked with the passing of the examination in a gradual manner.
If anyone failed to qualify in the examination, required to leave the Kingdom, though this was not stated officially all signs pointing towards the final exit. A similar verification in other fields, especially in the health sector witnessed an exodus of a considerable number of paramedics in the past. It is noteworthy to mention that job modification is not easy anymore.
Foreign nationals applying for an employment visa in their home countries will be required to pass an examination administered by concerned Saudi authorities in the sending country. It is also expected that the overall timeframe and cost of employing foreign nationals will increase due to the additional step in the recruitment process.
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