Officials in Saudi Arabia have been working on weaning the kingdom off expats in recent months.  

The move comes as part of the country's Vision 2030, a blueprint which aims to diversify Saudi Arabia's economy and tackle its long-standing national unemployment issue, among several other goals. 

According to statistics, nine million expats live and work in the oil-rich kingdom. 

Here are a few moves the country has recently made in its bid to reduce reliance on their skills. 

1. Reducing the validity of an expat work visa from two years to one

Earlier last year, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Labor and Social Development, Dr. Ali Al-Ghafis, issued an order reducing the validity of expat work visas for private sector employees in the country from two years to one year.

The decision was passed in a bid to increase employment rates among young Saudi nationals and has already taken effect. 

It was made on basis of Article 11 of the Labor Law, a provision which grants the kingdom's labor minister authority to make decisions "deemed necessary for improving the efficiency of the employment market." 

2. Introducing expat taxes

Saudi Arabia's first-ever expat tax went into effect on July 1st, 2017.

The levy, which affects expatriates and their dependents, is to be paid annually when a residence visa is sent for renewal or when a new visa is being issued. 

Set at a monthly SAR100 ($26) for each individual - a rate expected to increase gradually every year until 2020 - the new tax affects the lives of millions of non-natives living in the kingdom.

In a previous statement to StepFeed, S.H., an engineer who lives in Saudi Arabia along with his family, said the levy is unaffordable for the majority of expats residing in the country. 

"I work as an engineer, my salary is therefore considered above average when compared to other expats. This is the only reason why I find the current annual tax sum quite reasonable and affordable. For other expat workers, including those who work in construction, it's absolutely not," he explained at the time. 

3. Ordering the public sector to fire all expat workers within three years

Also in 2017, the kingdom's Ministry of Civil service asked all ministries and government departments to terminate contracts with expat workers within three years. 

According to the ministry, there are currently an estimated 70,000 expats working in the public sector.

The news was announced by Civil Services Minister Abdullah Al-Melfi during a meeting which focused on fully implementing the "job nationalization (Saudization) Plan" by 2020. 

Nationalizing professions is a vital part of the kingdom's Vision 2030

4. Limiting 12 retail professions to Saudi nationals

In January 2018, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Labor and Social Development, Dr. Ali Al-Ghafees, issued a decree limiting 12 retail jobs to Saudi nationals. 

The move came as part of the kingdom's efforts to reduce its reliance on foreign labor.

According to the ministry's spokesman, Khaled Abalkhail, the following retail categories will become designated as Saudi-only

  1. Watches
  2. Eye-wear
  3. Medical equipment and devices
  4. Electrical and electronic appliances
  5. Auto parts
  6. Building materials
  7. Carpets
  8. Cars and motorcycles
  9. Home and office furniture
  10. Children's clothing and men’s accessories
  11. Home kitchenware
  12. Confectioneries

5. Limiting jobs in shopping malls to Saudi nationals

"The Minister of Labor and Social Development issued an order limiting work in closed shopping centers in Saudi Arabia to Saudi men and women."

The kingdom also announced it will limit jobs at shopping malls to Saudi nationals. 

The announcement was made earlier last year and sparked debate among social media users. 

6. Training citizens to work in jobs filled by expats

In mid-2017, the kingdom started offering short technical courses – among them household electronics and computing – to both Saudi men and women, in a bid to train them to work in jobs currently filled by expats. 

The free-of-charge classes proved to be popular among young Saudis and are set to be offered annually.

7. Launching a campaign allowing illegal expat workers to leave the country

In March, Saudi Arabia launched “A Nation Without Violators,” a campaign that gave residency and labor law violators the chance to leave the country without having to pay penalties.

Under the campaign, which took effect on March 29, 2017, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister, announced a three-month grace period to help undocumented expatriates regularize their status or leave the country.

Over 600,000 expat workers were said to have left the kingdom during the campaign.  

8. Cracking down on illegal expats still working in the kingdom

After the end of Saudi's "A Nation Without Violators" campaign, the kingdom said that any expat still working in the country illegally will face strict punishment if caught. 

Between November and December 2017, Saudi authorities cracked down on those who remained in the kingdom without any legal basis, arresting over 200,000 individuals with incorrect work permits and residency documents. 

The kingdom also announced it will be offering $13,000 to anyone who reports illegal expats to authorities.