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Repatriation for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: December 2015

Repatriation means moving back to your country of origin. This is normally a voluntary process, though if your host country requires you to leave for legal reasons, you may be forcibly repatriated. In Saudi Arabia, this may happen if you fall foul of one of the country’s strict laws. It is likely that you will find that repatriation involves nearly as much bureaucracy as leaving did. Therefore it is best to start planning your departure several months in advance.

Practical Matters

Probably the first matter to consider is your accommodation arrangements. If you are renting, you should give your landlord sufficient notice, bearing in mind that renting involves paying 6 or 12 months in advance and refunds for leaving early are not normally given. Your sponsor may be able to help with this, particularly if your tenancy agreement is tied to them. Conversely, if you were previously renting out your house in your country of origin, be sure to give your tenants plenty of warning of your intention to return.

Though it is highly unlikely, if you do own property in Saudi Arabia, it will take some time to sell, so you should put it on the market a few months before you plan to leave. It is also a good idea to make an early start on house-hunting back home. For further information, see our Accommodation articles for your respective country.

Removing your personal items (and vehicles and pets if you have any) will also take some time to arrange. For useful advice on this, consult our Expat Briefing articles on Relocation and select the country you are returning to. Of course, you will also need to tell everyone that your address has changed! To help with this, you can arrange post forwarding to your new address for a certain period.

Remember also to cancel all subscriptions to services in your host country: newspaper subscriptions, sports club memberships, internet and TV provision, utilities, mobile phone contract and so on. Make sure to look into cancellation policies well in advance, as some of these companies require a set notice period. At the same time, you can start looking into and comparing these services in your home country.

It is also important to let your bank know that you are leaving the country. You may want to keep your bank account open for a while longer if you are still expecting income in that country. Note, however, that some banks charge their clients extra if they live abroad. To ensure that their records can be produced in good time, you should also inform your doctor, insurance company and children’s school (if applicable) of your intention to leave.

Legal Obligations

In addition, before you leave your host country, you may be obliged to deregister your presence and observe other formalities. Expats leaving Saudi Arabia will have to acquire an exit permit before leaving. This is applied for on your behalf by your sponsor, so you will need their permission. The exit permit supersedes your iqama and those of your family members. It is standard for family members to leave before the worker.           For more details, check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Normally when an expat is planning to leave Saudi Arabia, it is because their employment contract is due to lapse. However, if you are leaving before this happens, you should observe the notice period given in your contract (typically 30 days), else you will not be entitled to end-of-service benefits.

If you have been living abroad for a long time, bear in mind that your home country’s entry requirements may have changed. Additionally, if you have renounced your original citizenship, you may want to restore it. To find out more about both of these matters, visit the relevant immigration authority’s website.

If you are a taxpayer, the tax authorities will also need to know that you are leaving the country. Be aware that your tax obligations in the country you are leaving will apply for the remainder of its tax year. Conversely, you will need to re-register with the tax authorities back home. It is a good idea to check if your home country’s tax regulations have changed. For tax matters in Saudi Arabia, see Taxation in Saudi Arabia and the Department of Zakat and Income Tax’s website.

Emotional Aspects

Finally, it is important not to underestimate the emotional impact of returning home. Whereas living abroad has changed you, it is most likely that your old friends and family members have not changed much, so it may take time for you to readjust and settle again. Then again, you may now have the travelling bug and want to keep moving.

Furthermore, if you have lived abroad for a long time, it can take some time to adjust to being home again, and you may find yourself undergoing a period of reverse culture shock. This is because you may have absorbed some of the habits of your host country’s people and now find some of the ways of your erstwhile compatriots strange in comparison!