The ins and outs of the Saudi ‘green card’

Time: June 26, 2019  

DIMAH TALAL ALSHARIF

As has been widely reported this week, the Premium Residency scheme — sometimes referred to as the Saudi “green card” — has begun accepting applications on its online portal. The scheme was approved by the Cabinet in May, but many details that were not clear at the time have now been clarified and explained.
The scheme has two strands. Lifetime Premium Residency, as the name suggests, is of unlimited duration, and there is a one-off fee of SR800,000 ($213,316). A one-year residency is available for an annual fee of SR100,000.
The “green card” is expected to have a powerful impact on the stimulation of foreign investment in the Kingdom based on Vision 2030, and will be a catalyst for such investment in several ways.
For example, the scheme will encourage the transfer of knowledge in various sectors, thus stimulating the development and empowerment of the Saudi national workforce, especially in the sciences and other new sectors. It will also ensure equality between foreign and Saudi investors, as well as facilitating procedures for expatriates working in the Kingdom, and their families.
Premium Residency will also provide foreigners with the necessary protection for their investments, and qualify them for investment incentives, on an equal basis with Saudi investors. At the same time, it requires foreign investors to abide by the Kingdom’s laws and regulations governing health, safety and the environment.
Some have asked whether Premium Residency holders may own their own private businesses, but that issue is covered by the law regulating foreign investment in the Kingdom.
Confusion has also arisen among some existing foreign investors, who believe that obtaining a license to invest in the Kingdom entitles them to the benefits of Premium Residency. This is not so, and there are several significant differences. A foreign investor has a Saudi sponsor (the investment establishment), while a Premium Residency holder does not. Also, the holder of an investor’s license cannot be issued with a work permit or have residential property registered in their name, unlike the Premium Residency holder.
There are also circumstances in which Premium Residency may be canceled: For example, if the holder is convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to 60 days or a fine of up to SR100,000, or is subject to judicial deportation. The residency may also be canceled if the holder supplied false information in their application.
It is also important to correct the misleading suggestion that the Premium Residency scheme will in any way reduce employment opportunities for Saudis. Jobs allocated to Saudis are determined according to strict regulations; the competent authorities monitor every institution that breaks these rules and apply appropriate punishments.
The Saudi “green card” is a suitable option for some, but not for others, depending on which type of residency is most appropriate to each person’s needs. In all cases, the Kingdom’s strict implementation of its residency laws complements its other efforts to strengthen its security and protect its society.

Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

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What the law says about a bounced check

Time: June 18, 2019  

As we all know, the law deals strictly with anyone who writes a check without having sufficient funds in their bank account to cover it. As the economy prospers, with an increasing number of entrepreneurs and startups joining the business world, now is a good time to discuss this issue.

According to Ministry of Justice figures, there were about 18,700 cases last year of enforcement proceedings related to bounced checks, mainly because of insufficient funds. This suggests that the issue is so widespread that the authorities must deal with it more rigorously.

First, let us define our terms. A check is a cash instrument for payment or commercial trading, and not for the purpose of credit. The person who issues a check is called the drawer, who instructs the drawee (one of the banks) to allow a designated beneficiary appointed by the drawer to collect a specified sum from the drawer’s bank account.

Banks may dishonor a check, refusing to cash it, for several reasons; there may be insufficient funds in the drawer’s account, the signature on the check may not match the signature the bank has on record for the drawer, or there may be an error with the date.

These circumstances can, of course, happen accidentally, in which case no crime has been committed. There must be criminal intent. For example, if a drawer issues a check while having insufficient funds, but makes it clear to the beneficiary that the required funds will be deposited later and specifies when this will happen, then there is no evidence of bad faith.

However, writing a bad check may be intentional. People have been known to write a check while having sufficient funds to cover it, but then withdraw the funds before the check is deposited; to issue a check and instruct their bank not to cash it; or even deliberately sign a check incorrectly, knowing that their bank will not honor it.

Anyone convicted of doing so is liable to be imprisoned for up to three years and/or fined up to SR50,000.  If the offense is repeated within three years, the maximum period of imprisonment increases to five years and the maximum fine to SR100,000. The law also authorizes publication of offenders’ names, provided the text of the judgment specifies how this may occur.

So what should you do if someone gives you a check that bounces? First, obtain the check from your bank, along with a letter of objection from the bank. You can then file a complaint at the police department in the relevant bank branch’s area, and from there you can apply to the Enforcement Court for the implementation of your rights.

Of course, cash flow can be an issue for companies, especially entrepreneurial startups, and mistakes happen — but company managers must be equipped with all the relevant information about tradable instruments, and be aware of the risks. The media also has a role in educating society about the gravity of dishonored checks, and their negative long-term effect on the economy.

 

 Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

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When law meets technology

Time: June 04, 2019  

Religions have always emphasized the importance of community cohesion and urged cooperation among people.

In preparation for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior recently launched an initiative, Forijat, that integrates law and technology.

The platform is accessed through the Abshar app for government services and allows public donations for people who have been imprisoned because they are unable to pay debts. What distinguishes this platform is its adoption of a formal mechanism for delivering donations to its beneficiaries

Within three days of the launch of the service on May 29, 200 prisoners were released, with a total debt repayment of more than SR6.6 million ($1.8 million). Donations targeted prisoners in financial, not criminal, cases.

The process starts by signing in to the donor account on the Abshar app. A payment number is allocated for each prisoner along with details of his case. After the donor completes the required steps, he receives a notification when the outstanding sum is repaid and the prisoner is then released.

Social networking sites show that people have welcomed the initiative in a way that reflects the Kingdom’s spirit of brotherhood and cooperation.

Such a grand initiative can form a significant part of national corporate social responsibility schemes. In the past two days we have also seen the participation of two banks in the initiative, and we look forward to greater involvement by the business community in achieving integration and cooperation in the community.

Donors should be aware that donations can be made only through the dedicated platform, and they should be wary of other unreliable donations.

Initiatives such as Forijat are an indirect way of raising awareness of the seriousness of debt, as well as the strict application of the law on the one hand, and the ethics and nobility of this people on the other.

 

• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

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Saudi Arabia to impose fines for breach of new public decency laws

Time: May 25, 2019  

Cabinet members last month approved the regulations which aim to uphold the values, principles and identity of Saudi society in public places. (AN photo by Essam Al Ghalib)
  • The list of offenses has been designed to respect the values, customs, traditions and culture of Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: People breaking any of 10 new rules on public behavior in Saudi Arabia face being fined up to SR5,000 ($1,333). A list of offenses relating to breaches of public decency came into force throughout the Kingdom on Saturday.

Cabinet members last month approved the regulations which aim to uphold the values, principles and identity of Saudi society in public places such as parks, beaches, malls, hotels and restaurants.

Shoura Council member Dr. Muadi Al-Madhhab told MBC channel: “The Kingdom isn’t the only country to implement such regulations. Many countries already have them, and the regulations apply to citizens and expatriates.”

With rising tourism, he said that the 10 provisions would help individuals to be aware of how they should behave in the presence of visitors to the country.

The list has been designed to respect the values, customs, traditions and culture of Saudi Arabia, and the country’s interior minister will work with the chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and other relevant authorities to administer and enforce the rules and where necessary serve penalties.

BACKGROUND

The list of offenses has been designed to respect the values, customs, traditions and culture of Saudi Arabia.

Each of the 10 regulations will carry a corresponding fine that will be issued by the minister. Under the rules, individuals will be expected to adhere to respectful dress codes and avoid taking photos or using phrases that might offend public decency.

The list covers graffiti and demolition of public property or transport unless authorized by Saudi authorities. Verbal and physical acts of violence or conduct that causes damage, fear or is deemed to be a threat to public safety will also form part of the crackdown.

Legal consultant Dimah Al-Sharif told Arab News: “I believe that the sanctions will play a major role in forcing the community to respect and commit to the regulations.”

She said the Ministry of Interior and SCTH could link the list of decency offenses to the Absher app in the same way as traffic crimes. “This would ensure that individuals treat the issue of public decency seriously and responsibly.” Anyone breaking one of the bylaws for a second time within the same year will face having their fine doubled.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The social safety net that gives employees security for life

Time: May 21, 2019

The Saudi social insurance system provides a safety net for all members of society, offering security for not only private-sector employees but also those on the public payroll.

Social security services are optional in terms of pensions for Saudi nationals who are self-employed or in partnership with others in commercial, industrial, agricultural or service activities. The same applies to artisans, and Saudis working abroad without being linked to a contractual relationship with an employer based in the Kingdom.

Men become entitled to claim their pension at 60 years old having stopped activities subject to the system, and when their contribution period has been at least 120 months.

A participant who has not reached the age of 60 and is no longer subject to this provision, can still draw down a retirement pension if they have been making contributions for at least 300 months.

Woman can receive a pension at 55 if they have been contributing for not less than 120 months.

In the event of injury at work, the law ensures that appropriate medical care will be provided in addition to a daily allowance if the individual is temporarily unable to return to work.

In the case of permanent or partial disability resulting from a workplace incident, the employee is entitled to the payment of their monthly wage, severance pay and a monthly income for their family members.

These allowances are granted on a temporary basis, subject to periodic examinations by the General Organization for Social Insurance during the first five years, after which time payments will become permanent.

The law also considers women’s social security and empowerment. The most important of these is to enable them to get their benefits when they leave work at any time, even if they do not match all the conditions of salary entitlement. In addition, they can claim a marriage bonus equivalent to 18 salary payments.

In the case of divorce or widowhood, women will be re-incorporated into the system so that they can benefit from a pension. A woman who has lost her husband, has the right to combine his pension as per the program and her own pension at the same time.

Ensuring employees are aware of their rights and legal duties helps prevent exploitation and false claims of Saudi citizenship.

 

• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

 

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Recent cases show Saudis breaking a societal taboo

12/05/19

Sexual harassment is a sensitive topic that many communities avoid talking about, especially in the Middle East. This sensitivity leads to many victims remaining silent, especially since the offense can be difficult to prove. However, in Saudi Arabia sexual harassment has a clear definition in law, there are penalties for offenders, and there are legal efforts to combat it.

Thanks to social media, incidents of sexual harassment in the last two days were immediately forwarded to the public prosecutor’s office, and the necessary measures were taken to arrest the offenders.

In September 2017, King Salman ordered the introduction of a system to combat sexual harassment, and draft legislation was approved by the Shoura Council and the Cabinet in May 2018. Under Saudi law, sexual harassment is any statement, act or sign with a sexual connotation inflicted by one person on another in relation to the victim’s body or their modesty, by any means.

Offenders may be imprisoned for up to two years and / or fined up to SR100,000 ($26,664.5). If the crime is repeated, offenders face five years in prison and / or a fine of SR300,000. Article 7 of the law imposes the same punishment on anyone who incites, agrees with, justifies or supports the harasser in any way, including on social media.

One of the clauses in the law excludes the possibility of exempting a perpetrator from punishment, even with the victim’s agreement. This will help curb financial bargains to waive the complaint, and deter cover-up attempts. The system takes into account women’s privacy by maintaining the confidentiality of their identity and personal data.

 

• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub, and a member of the International Association of Lawyers.

Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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How the Saudi state helps deserted families

Time: May 07, 2019  

Last week, the justice minister officially launched the Alimony Fund, a Saudi government initiative approved in 2017. The fund was created to provide financial support for divorced or abandoned women, and for wives involved in court cases that have not yet been resolved.

It will have its own independent budget derived from subsidies, donations, grants, donations, wills and endowments.

The main aim of the fund is to provide support and care for women who need it because of their matrimonial circumstances, to improve their quality of life, and to provide a decent standard of living for them and their children, especially if their own families are unable to help. At the same time, the state is determined to counter the phenomenon of husbands and fathers who try to evade their responsibility to pay alimony to their wives and children, and will actively pursue such men to recover these funds.

There are three scenarios where the fund may intervene. The first is when a woman has obtained a final court judgment for alimony, but the judgment has not been acted upon by the husband or father, and he is not insolvent. The second is when a woman has obtained an initial order for alimony but the case is still pending in court. The third is when a woman has submitted a claim for alimony to the court; the fund will pay the alimony to her until the case is completed, and then recover the money from the husband. If the court rejects the alimony claim, the beneficiary must repay what she received from the fund.

Applicants for support from the fund may register and apply electronically on the fund’s website, by entering the requisite national identity information.

While the fund is an excellent initiative, it could perhaps be more realistic in assessing the needs of a family, particularly with the soaring cost of electricity and high water bills, and taking into account children’s expenses and the standard of living the family may be used to.

At a later stage, some of the fund’s budget could also be allocated to training programs for its unemployed beneficiaries, giving them the opportunity to find a job or a career, and therefore, an additional source of income to provide a decent living for their family. Many charities have valuable experience in this area that could be put to good use, empowering many women through several programs that attract people of different abilities and interests.

Recent initiatives by the Ministry of Justice have achieved goals of which we as lawyers are proud. The genuine empowerment of divorced or separated women is not limited to the alimony fund but extends to speeding up the mechanism of judicial procedures so that families in general, and children in particular, avoid falling into this financial predicament.

 

• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

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Dire consequences if you don’t pay your debts

Time: May 01, 2019  

There is much discussion these days about debt claims and judgments, and creditors experiencing difficulty because debtors take so long to pay what they owe. Previously we have looked at, for example, how utilities and other services may be suspended for nonpayment of debt. Now let’s examine one of the most important and radical elements in the Saudi judicial system, namely the means of enforcement.
Enforcement mechanisms were created because they are necessary and important. They limit the ability of a debtor to constantly delay payment, and they allow creditors to obtain what they are owed. Judicial orders and judgments do more than confirm a creditor’s rights, they also extend to implementing them.
When is a debtor legally deemed to be a procrastinator? Five days after being notified of an execution order, or the date of its publication in a newspaper, a debtor who has not paid what they owe is officially in that category.
The regulator considers the threat of imprisonment to be an important means to recover a debt, since it puts more pressure on the debtor. In law, it is referred to as executive detention.
Obviously, this is a serious measure, and is not resorted to lightly. There must be clear proof and evidence against the debtor, and the creditor must take appropriate legal action. It must be clear that the debtor is able to pay what they owe but has failed to do so.
Imprisonment may be viewed as the easiest and most secure solution to a debt claim, but it is not always applicable. For example, executive detention is not appropriate if the debtor has sufficient assets that can be seized to pay the debt; in cases where a bank guarantee, or kafalah, has been provided; if insolvency is proved; or if a competent medical authority testifies that the debtor has a health condition that would be worsened by imprisonment.
Nevertheless, an imprisonment order is not subject to appeal.
The regulator also gives the enforcement judge the power to impose a fine of up to SR10,000 ($2,665) a day if the debtor fails to pay, to be deposited in the court account for each day the debtor is late. The judge may cancel the fine, in whole or in part of it, if the debtor settles.
This fine is not the same as compensation for the creditor, and does not diminish their claim. The law recognizes that the injured party has the right to initiate a lawsuit against the procrastinator to be compensated for damages.
It should be noted that these mechanisms apply not only to debt, but also to the implementation of all judicial orders — although it is in debt situations that most people will commonly encounter them.
Some of these measures are certainly severe, but they make a valuable contribution to ensuring that creditors receive their rightful due, and they reduce delays in debt repayments.

Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

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Good behavior in public, and why it matters

Time: April 17, 2019  

Respect for public decency is one of the most important characteristics of a civilized society.  Some confuse the right to enjoy their own privacy with the right of society as a whole to benefit from the rules of public decency, which vary according to each society and culture.
Moreover, Islam requires us to respect the basic ethics of each society, and to show due respect for the diversity of their cultures and traditions, whether in our own conduct or in how we relate to our environment and the other members of society.
Last week the Saudi Cabinet approved regulations aimed at maintaining public decency, with 10 main provisions. These include prohibitions on any form of abuse in public places, on insulting or disrespecting Saudi culture and traditions, wearing indecent clothing, writing or painting on walls without official authorization, making distasteful statements, and any public act that may harm, intimidate or endanger people.
Offenders may be fined up to SR5,000 ($1,333), and double that amount if the offense is repeated.
The Ministry of the Interior and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage will work together to determine how the new laws will be implemented. A clear schedule of detailed offenses and corresponding fines is expected in due course.
Obviously, there are many important elements to enforcing such laws. For example, monitoring people’s behavior on the street will surely require dedicated teams of people, and cannot be left to existing security and traffic officers.
My suggestion would be the establishment of a steering team by the Ministry of the Interior and the tourism commission to monitor public decency offenses, and link them in the same way as traffic offenses to each person’s Absher account; this would ensure that individuals treat the issue of public decency seriously and responsibly.
In addition, the activation of the new laws should be accompanied by an adequate period of guidance before the imposition of fines, in order to familiarize society with the nature of potential offenses and to educate them about their consequences.
Finally, the aim of such laws is to encourage and promote among individuals the principles of respect for public decency. Imposing fines and penalties is certainly an effective way of doing so, but not as effective as raising awareness and providing appropriate guidance; this would definitely have a beneficial effect on how people behave, even when they are outside the geographical area covered by the law itself.

Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

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Saudi Justice Ministry sets up electronic portal for courts

Time: April 09, 2019  

RIYADH: The Ministry of Justice and ELM enterprise signed on Tuesday an agreement to establish an Experts Electronic Portal, which links judicial departments with accredited experts’ entities to reduce the duration of the litigation process, ensure transparency, and set up a unified and accredited record for experts.

Walid bin Saud Al-Rushoud, vice minister of justice for digital transformation and information technology, said that the portal will serve courts in its consultancy requirements through an electronic window to communicate with expertise via simple interactive steps.

“The portal is set up on flexible bases to deal with digital services for courts to ensure credibility and quality of outputs for beneficiaries,” Al-Rushoud said.

Al-Rushoud signed the agreement on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, while Dr. Abdul Rahman bin Saad Al-Jadhai signed the agreement as CEO of ELM enterprise.

Last year, the ministry launched its electronic authentication service.

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