This article is reviewed regularly by Wego’s editorial team to ensure that the content is up to date & accurate.

Updated May 2024

Saudi Arabia has become one of the most promising countries today, with great potential for more development, high living standards and a considerably lower cost of living. About 38% of its population of over 34 million comprises a vibrant and thriving ex-pat community. 

Are you looking to immigrate to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? Here is what to expect in the country, along with a complete and comprehensive guide on moving procedures that you should be aware of.  

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Moving to Saudi Arabia

If you’re an expat planning to move and work in Saudi Arabia, the first step is to secure a Saudi work visa. This is the primary type of visa issued to expatriates who have secured a job offer in the country. In this process, your employer will act as your sponsor and will arrange for the visa on your behalf.

Saudi work visa

Any person aged between 18 and 60 years, physically fit and possessing professional and academic qualifications required by the Kingdom (provided there is a shortage of citizens holding such qualifications), or belonging to those categories of workers needed by the Kingdom, can be employed in Saudi Arabia. 

Sponsorship requirement

The employment visa requires a sponsor in Saudi Arabia. The sponsoring company is responsible for filing the application, while the employee is responsible for supplying the required documents.

Documents required

To apply for a work visa, applicants must submit:

  • original passport valid for no less than 6 months, with at least 2 successive empty visa pages
  • digital power of attorney from the Saudi employer generated by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • a visa referral note indicating the number and date of the visa issued by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs or either of its branches in Jeddah or Dammam
  • original letter from the Saudi company sponsoring the applicant, certified by both the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • a copy of the employment contract, signed by the sponsor and the applicant and certified by the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • a certified and notarized copy of the applicant’s university degree/diploma, which the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission must authenticate  
  • a medical report in three copies, along with all lab results, and 3 passport-size colored photographs on white background
  • police report, issued within 6 months before the date of application, with detailed information about the applicant’s criminal record, if any

This means that ex-pats cannot come to Saudi Arabia to find work but can move to the Kingdom only after securing a sponsored job.

Application process

Once the employee turns in the above documents, the employer must apply for the work visa of their employee. To do so:

  • the sponsoring employer must register with the Ministry of Interior
  • an immigration file will be opened for the expatriate workers, and the employer must apply for a work visa
  • once the application is approved, a Visa Authorization Number will be issued in 2 weeks
  • along with the Visa Authorization Number, other documents listed above must be submitted to the Saudi Arabian Embassy 
  • the embassy will issue the visa within one to three weeks

The processing period for the Saudi work visa can range from three weeks to two months. For a more comprehensive understanding of this visa, we invite you to explore our dedicated article on the Saudi work visa.

Living in Saudi Arabia

Living in Saudi Arabia offers a unique experience filled with rich culture, history, and opportunities. As an expat, understanding the residency regulations and the necessary permits is crucial to making the most of your time in this vibrant country.

Residency in Saudi Arabia

Gaining residence in Saudi Arabia opens up a host of facilities and opportunities. As a legitimate resident in Saudi Arabia, you are entitled to the following:

  • open a bank account
  • access financial facilities
  • apply for a driving license
  • access government health services and health insurance
  • register your children in government and private schools
  • work and invest
  • travel without an exit reentry visa
  • own real estate in your name
  • host and invite relatives

These exclusive benefits, available only to residents of Saudi Arabia, significantly elevate the living experience and lay a robust foundation for both personal and professional advancement in the country.

Iqama residence permit 

Iqama is a residence permit issued to all expat residents in Saudi Arabia by the Ministry of Interior. It is of paramount importance that all expat residents arriving in Saudi Arabia on work and dependent visas possess a valid Iqama ID. A valid Iqama ID functions as official identification and enables its holders to open a bank account and apply for a driver’s license, mobile SIM card, and many other documents.

Upon your arrival in Saudi Arabia, your sponsor typically processes your Iqama within a span of three months. It’s important to note that working without your sponsor listed on your Iqama is considered illegal. For a more comprehensive understanding of this topic, we invite you to delve into our detailed article on Iqama.

Saudi green card

Known formally as the premium residency, the Saudi green card is a special type of residence permit in Saudi Arabia. It offers expatriates the freedom to live, work, and even own a business and property in the Kingdom, all without the need for a sponsor.

The benefits of holding a premium residency are extensive, including the ability to recruit workers and the ownership of businesses, properties, and vehicles. However, it’s important to note that this does not equate to citizenship. Certain restrictions remain, such as prohibitions on working in reserved occupations and investing in specific economic sectors.

For a more comprehensive understanding of this premium residency scheme, we invite you to explore our dedicated article on the Saudi green card.

Saudi family residence visa

The Saudi Family Residence Visa is a type of visa specifically designed for the relatives of individuals working in Saudi Arabia. This includes spouses, sons under the age of 18, and unmarried daughters, provided proof of marital status is given. Before applying for this visa, the sponsor must obtain authorization from the Saudi Ministry of Affairs.

It’s important to note that this visa does not permit the holder to seek employment. Additionally, holders of residence visas are required to obtain exit visas to leave the Kingdom.

We invite you to consult our detailed article below for a comprehensive guide on how to apply for a Saudi family residence visa.

Financial aspects of living in Saudi Arabia

Living in Saudi Arabia comes with unique financial considerations. While the country does not have a no-income-tax policy like the UAE, it does offer a relatively lower cost of living. This is particularly true for housing, food, and transportation.

Understanding the cost structure in Saudi Arabia is crucial for anyone considering employment opportunities in the country. This includes being aware of the costs of utilities, healthcare, and education.

Saudi income tax

In Saudi Arabia, taxation applies to self-employed professionals and business people who generate income. The corporate income tax rate is specifically set at 20% of the net adjusted profits. In addition to this, a religious wealth tax, known as Zakat, is levied at a rate of 2.5%. This is applicable to resident companies in Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries.

However, please note that certain categories of personal and corporate income are exempted from taxation. For a more comprehensive understanding of this, we invite you to explore our detailed article on Saudi income tax.

Minimum salary in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, the compensation structure is strategically designed to foster a strong workforce. For individuals employed in the private sector, the minimum wage is established at 4000 Saudi riyals. This isn’t merely a figure but a commitment underpinned by the Human Resources Development Fund (Hadaf), which subsidizes this wage to guarantee fair compensation for workers. For those curious about the minimum wage in the public sector, we invite you to delve into our detailed article on Saudi Arabia’s minimum wage and salary.

For those interested in delving deeper, we also provide insights into the average salary in Saudi Arabia, categorized by industry. For a comprehensive understanding of this topic, we invite you to explore our dedicated article on the average salary in Saudi Arabia.

 

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