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Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Discuss culture, living, traveling, relocating, dating or anything related to Africa or The Middle East.

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ladislav
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Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Post by ladislav »

I shared this on English teaching forums, but this happened to me exactly one year ago. Not sure if I shared it here.

I was laid off from my job in Saudi May 2018. Then, another company offered me a job and applied for a new visa when I was in the US. The Embassy returned my passport saying that my old visa from old company was still valid.

My new employer said that I should go in on the old visa, and later it would be changed to the new employer’s sponsorship. He said that he had gone to Saudi on his previous visa eight times and never had any problem.

So I went. Some of my other friends also went back on the old visas which were still valid. Everyone assured me- and them- that the visa belonged to us and the old employer had nothing to do with it anymore. We began working.

The old employer then looked us all up on the computer, found that we were back in the country, and put an”absconder” notice on our visas. This basically locked us up in the country unable to leave, and unable to change it to a new sponsor. I tried to go to Bahrain over the weekend, but was stopped by the immigration and turned back.

The new employer was not able to get a new visa for me and fired me. I was now stuck in Saudi all alone, with no job with an “absconder” mark on my passport. I contacted lawyers and the US embassy and they had no idea as to what to do. The lawyers took $1000 but as I had learned later, never had any experience with this. They had never encountered a case like that before. Other lawyers took $133 consultation fee from me but also knew nothing about such things. The Embassy whose employees were Arabs and Muslims got on my case accusing me of breaking the Saudi law.

Anyway, finally, my main lawyer said he was going to try to get me deported and took me to the deportation center, but they said they could not do it without my ex employer being present. Thus, the lawyer told me to go and see my old sponsor and ask him to remove the block. I went there, they began yelling at me, but eventually I agreed to pay a fine of $800, sign a promissory note that I would never go to Saudi on their visa again, and they took me to the immigration to have the block removed. They did in the end.

It was really scary, stressful, and the whole ordeal lasted seven weeks. Very unpleasant!

I then took a taxi to Bahrain to celebrate Christmas, and then on to Kyiv to spend the New Year there.

My other friends who went on those old visas suffered other fates. One was arrested and thrown in the slammer and then deported after one week. One was not arrested by taken to the immigration to get fingerprinted and banned from coming back to Saudi for the next five years. Which effectively means forever?

From Ukraine, I went to the Philippines for two months to relax and then I came to Cambodia to cool off after the whole thing.

The moral of the story: just because somebody never had any problem and tells you that it is OK to do something, does not mean that you can get away by doing the same thing, too. Even if that somebody is your new boss.

I am not banned from going to Saudi, but I am not yet ready to go back again. Being stuck there is a stomach-churning experience.
A brain is a terrible thing to wash!

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Shemp
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Re: Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Post by Shemp »

Sorry to hear about your experience. I've heard other bad stories about Arab countries. Sometimes they are the nicest people in the world and try to live up to the tradition of Bedouin hospitality to travelers. Then you offend them somehow and all hell breaks loose.
ladislav wrote:
December 3rd, 2019, 12:10 am
The moral of the story: just because somebody never had any problem and tells you that it is OK to do something, does not mean that you can get away by doing the same thing, too.
Since you mentioned Kyiv, I have to listen constantly to people telling me stories of how they overstayed their visa in Ukraine for months or years and only punishment was a small fine, whereas other people tell stories of getting banned for 3 years for doing the same thing. Another example of the above moral.

MrMan
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Re: Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Post by MrMan »

Thanks for sharing the warning with all of us.

I was imagining your scenario. Is there any way to walk across the desert or take a little boat across the Red Sea into some other country to settle something like this? But then you'd have visa problems win the next country.

I'm glad to hear you got out. I guess the moral of the story is to make sure you are extra careful to tie up all loose ends whenever you leave a country.

yick
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Re: Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Post by yick »

I did two years in KSA and worked in three cities - Najran, Riyadh and Al Khafji.

I wouldn't work there again for any kind of money. My last job was a top dollar petroleum gig but it was probably the only time ever in the past ten years where I dreaded the drive into work. I realised early on you got paid for putting up with the embuggarance of dealing with Saudi students - many who seem to have some kind of Wasta and seem to get away with regular infringments and of course, with that, your word counts for nothing. :roll:

Good things about Saudi Arabia are the weather, the food choices are really good and it is reasonably safe (apart from crossing the road and driving...) everything else, it's just shit.

And though some of my Indian/Arab colleagues were decent - a lot of them were hating, backstabbing snakes who despised the fact you were on more money than them. Woe betide if you have Arab or Indian mid-management - who usually have the irritating combination of being useless and the worst kind of micromanagers.

China is a far better place to work - and salaries are starting to catch up with Saudi as their oil revenues are going down the pan. I heard a well known contractor are offering 11000 Riyals for MA holders - I was on more than that as a BA holder over eight years ago!

MrMan
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Re: Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Post by MrMan »

yick wrote:
December 4th, 2019, 2:41 pm
I did two years in KSA and worked in three cities - Najran, Riyadh and Al Khafji.

I wouldn't work there again for any kind of money. My last job was a top dollar petroleum gig but it was probably the only time ever in the past ten years where I dreaded the drive into work. I realised early on you got paid for putting up with the embuggarance of dealing with Saudi students - many who seem to have some kind of Wasta and seem to get away with regular infringments and of course, with that, your word counts for nothing. :roll:

Good things about Saudi Arabia are the weather, the food choices are really good and it is reasonably safe (apart from crossing the road and driving...) everything else, it's just shit.

And though some of my Indian/Arab colleagues were decent - a lot of them were hating, backstabbing snakes who despised the fact you were on more money than them. Woe betide if you have Arab or Indian mid-management - who usually have the irritating combination of being useless and the worst kind of micromanagers.

China is a far better place to work - and salaries are starting to catch up with Saudi as their oil revenues are going down the pan. I heard a well known contractor are offering 11000 Riyals for MA holders - I was on more than that as a BA holder over eight years ago!
Was this an English school? A university job?

I had a next door neighbor who taught ESL at a private school. He lost his job and ended up taking a position in Saudi Arabia. His Japanese wife was afraid to go with him. He was apparently making what he considered to be good money. i think he was in a nice expat compound, I heard from my wife who heard from his wife.

I have heard of some people enjoying Dubai. I suppose if you make friends you can have a good time in a lot of places of the world that aren't appealing for other reasons. I hear Dubai is not nearly as restrictive as Saudi Arabia.

MrMan
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Re: Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Post by MrMan »

Sometimes you have a feeling things aren't right (like about your visa). It doesn't make sense to you, but people say it's okay. Don't worry about it.

If something that's a big deal if things do go wrong-- like an illegal visa, ignore everyone else and go with your gut. It's better to spend a little extra time and money and throw it away that run the risk of losing a year of income.

Btw, if the US embassy won't help you, redress of grievances is in the constitution. So email your congressman or senator. One of his/her staff members can contact the embassy and lean on them to do something to help you. They fund the executive branch. They are also willing to help you because helping you get your visa and helping grandma replace her lost social security payment can help the get reelected. I don't know if it would help in this case. I know a guy who married a woman from central America who was waiting on her overdue visa. I told him about it and helped him send an email and he started to see progress. I think she's got one more visa-related step before she can legally get into the US.

Locals might go to the local government office with cash to bribe an official for a stamp if stuck in a similar situation.

yick
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Re: Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Post by yick »

MrMan wrote:
December 4th, 2019, 7:10 pm


Was this an English school? A university job?

I had a next door neighbor who taught ESL at a private school. He lost his job and ended up taking a position in Saudi Arabia. His Japanese wife was afraid to go with him. He was apparently making what he considered to be good money. i think he was in a nice expat compound, I heard from my wife who heard from his wife.

I have heard of some people enjoying Dubai. I suppose if you make friends you can have a good time in a lot of places of the world that aren't appealing for other reasons. I hear Dubai is not nearly as restrictive as Saudi Arabia.
Two university jobs - I did a semester in both Najaran and Riyadh and the other was a petro gig in Al Khafji, training their apprentices.

Dubai (and Bahrain) would be a nice place to live but the problem is if you're teaching Gulf Arabs and are under the management of them, working life is going to be shit.

Life for women is restricted to their compound and occasional trips to the mall, it would be a boring and crappy life for a woman who has things going for her or at least things going on - there are 'compound queens' who like that kind of life but I wouldn't take my wife there, that and if she is Asian - she will be more discriminated against/treated worse than a white woman as they might mistake her for a Filipina OFW (which there are many and are regulary abused...).

I wouldn't teach English again in The Gulf, other jobs - I don't know. There are good things about living there but I am going to tell you - it was never worth the pay cheque long term, I needed some big cash short-term, got the money and got the hell out.

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Neo
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Re: Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Post by Neo »

That sounds like a scary experience. I am glad it worked out for you in the end. It's also good information. That may not be a place for me to visit.
Salvation is the free gift of God simply for believing that Jesus is the Son of God, and it can't be lost; the only repentance necessary is the change of mind from unbelief to belief, because salvation is not about turning from sin because it is without works. Jesus, the Savior kept all the commandments in absolute perfection for us, ∴ salvation is without works, and He died for our sins, taking the eternal penalty for us.

ladislav
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Re: Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Post by ladislav »

I never had such problems in Saudi before, but since 2016 all kinds of shitty things started happening. Salaries went down, some salaries were not paid, then, these blocks appeared on the scene. They did not exist before. And the US Embassy had me sign a POA-like note, but all they did was call the Saudi immigration to find out what I should do. They themselves had no idea about such things. But they assigned a person to call me to check up on the progress. I did contact a congressman but by then I had already resolved the problem by myself.
The whole thing was very unpleasant, it filled me with sadness more than anything. I was just trying to teach English for God's sake. And the way they fired me was so cruel. Anyway, greetings from Phnom Penh. A nice country but I can't live on their salary.
During all this ordeal I met many Muslim people who helped me with religious guidance. Their faith was similar to what other religions preached.
They told me such things as ' Every delay has an end" and " Your sins seem big to you, but to Allah, they are just like a speck of dust".
I met a Saudi guy who had many traffic fines and they would not let him get his passport. He owed USD 5K in tickets. He said he had no money to pay. He was planning to walk across the desert to Yemen and buy a Yemeni passport there.
The whole thing was quite an adventure. My adrenaline was pumping. I also saw a Saudi immigration jail. It looked like Aushwitz. Some people were stuck in those for years. Some died in those. But mostly non Westerners. With Westerners, they hold them for a week at the most.
It was such a relief to go to Bahrain to celebrate Xmas and then on to Kyiv for the New Year. Ukraine was covered in snow and cold as hell. But it was magic. Especially after this nightmare.
Last edited by ladislav on December 5th, 2019, 7:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
A brain is a terrible thing to wash!

MrMan
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Re: Stuck in Saudi Arabia: 1st Anniversary.

Post by MrMan »

ESL is a tough line of work. At least it was for me because I did not get a degree in education which might have opened up international schools. I went back to grad school and went into another field.

The salary I got in Korea was kind of the standard target for a US college graduate, $400 a week or so, which is what grads in humanities and some of the social sciences were working for. I was making more than an engineer in Korea, $1600 a month or so, plus housing, which really helps. I was getting maybe $32,400 in today's dollars. But college was cheaper back then and I returned to the US and bought a used car with my savings. And I gave the car to my parents in exchange for their plus loans. One year in Korea and I was college-debt free, but broke again. I didn't have the stomach for another year in Korea because of the culture. Indonesia was much more laid back and I hung around there a long time. The pollution and infrastructure is a mess, though. The pay was a bit less until I found something that paid almost as much in a much cheaper economy because of currency devaluation.

I never had an employer mess up my visa. I have heard a few tales of that. I did overstay a visa by one day once just because that was the flight we could afford out of the country and paid a few hundred dollars in penalties. There were no black marks on my records as far as I could tell.

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