If your company is planning to expand operations into Saudi Arabia, you’ll need a talented team of employees. It is important to know how to get work visas and residency permits for any employees who will be making the move with you, whether you’re planning to relocate existing team members or recruit new employees abroad.
Types of Work Visas in Saudi Arabia
Anyone who wishes to enter Saudi Arabia will require a visa, with the exception of citizens of countries that are members of The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. These members include the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, the Sultanate of Oman, and Kuwait.
There are three types of visas in Saudi Arabia:
- Employment visas
- Business visit visas
- Family visit or residence visas
This guide will focus on employment visas, as these will be necessary for any employees who will be staying in Saudi Arabia on a long-term basis.
What Are the Requirements to Obtain a Saudi Arabia Work Visa?
To obtain a visa, employees will need to have a sponsor in Saudi Arabia. The sponsoring employer is responsible for most of the application process, but the prospective employee will need to supply all the necessa documents.
The following documents are required to obtain an employment visa:
- A passport that will be valid for the duration of employment
- A passport-sized photograph, in color
- Proof of online payment of the visa fee through the Enjazit website
- A completed visa application
- Three copies of a signed medical report
- A letter of employment from the sponsoring company in Saudi Arabia, which must be certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Saudi Chamber of Commerce
- A signed copy of the employment contract
- A certified copy of the applicant’s university diploma, which must be validated by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission
- A police report of any criminal record
- An addressed, prepaid envelope
How to Get a Work Visa in Saudi Arabia: The Application Process
The employer must begin the work visa application process. Here are the necessary steps to obtain a visa and residency permit in Saudi Arabia:
- The sponsoring employer must register with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior.
- The Ministry will open an immigration file with information regarding all of the employer’s expatriate workers.
- The employer will lodge an application for a work visa with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Labor.
- Once the application is approved, the Ministry of Labor will notify the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Within two weeks, the Ministry of Foreign affairs will issue a Visa Authorization Number.
- The employee will submit their employment visa application to the relevant Saudi Arabian embassy, along with the documents listed above.
- The embassy will issue the visa within one to three weeks, at which point the employee can travel to Saudi Arabia.
- In Saudi Arabia, the employee must apply for a residency permit, or Iqama, through the Ministry of Labor.
- The Ministry of Labor will forward the approved application to the Ministry of Interior, where the Iqama will be issued through the Directorate General for Passports.
Employees should carry their Iqama at all times in order to prove that they are legally allowed to live and work in Saudi Arabia.
If the employee would like to travel in and out of Saudi Arabia during the duration of their employment, they will need to apply for an Exit/Re-Entry Permit through the Ministry of Interior. This permit is generally issued within one week.
Other Important Considerations for Workers in Saudi Arabia
Employees should be aware that the authorities in Saudi Arabia are very strict. Behavior or appearance that is deemed inappropriate may result in denial of entry into the country or deportation. Examples of unacceptable conduct include public displays of affection, men exposing their legs by wearing shorts, and women wearing clothing that is too tight or thin, exposing their hair, or wearing makeup.
All visitors to Saudi Arabia should also be aware of the tenets and philosophies of Islam, which is the only religion that may be celebrated publicly in Saudi Arabia. The Mutawwa’in, the religious police in Saudi Arabia, will strictly enforce these standards throughout the country.
If any employees plan to bring spouses or children to Saudi Arabia, they will need to obtain family visit visas.
Choose Globalization Partners for a Smooth International Expansion
The Globalization Partners team can make your company’s transition to Saudi Arabia as smooth as possible by ensuring compliance from the start. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you employ top talent in Saudi Arabia with our Global Expansion solution.