HomeEstablishing Your Workforce in Saudi Arabia: Key Visa and Residency Insights

For businesses operating in Saudi Arabia, facilitating the process of obtaining employment visas for your foreign employees is a crucial responsibility. Expanding your business into Saudi Arabia requires assembling a skilled team of employees. Whether you plan to relocate current team members or hire internationally, understanding the process of obtaining work visas and residency permits is vital for ensuring a faultless transition. 

To effectively manage this, it is important to familiarize yourself with the various types of visas available for expatriates in Saudi Arabia. 

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Types of Work Visas in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, several types of visas are available for expatriates: 

  • Employment Visas: For expatriates with an employment contract. 
  • Business Visit Visas: For short-term business visits, requiring an invitation letter from a Saudi company. 
  • Family Visit or Residence Visas: For expatriates proving kinship with a local resident. 
  • Temporary Work Visit Visas (TWVV): Introduced in 2021, valid for one year, allowing multiple entries and short-term work for up to 90 days. 

Here we focus on employment visas, essential for long-term employees. 

Key Requirements for Saudi Work Visas 

To apply for a Saudi work visa, applicants must meet several essential requirements. These include having a sponsoring employer in Saudi Arabia and providing various documents to support the application. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the necessary steps and documentation. 

Essential Steps for Employers 

  • Sponsorship and ApplicationTo start the visa application process for your prospective employees, you must first act as their sponsor. This involves submitting an application to the Ministry of Labor on their behalf. 
  • Authorization and ApprovalAfter the Ministry of Labor approves the application, the next crucial step is obtaining a Visa Authorization Number from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). This authorization is essential for progressing with the employee’s visa process. 

Required Documentation 

  1. Sponsorship Letter
  • An invitation letter from a Saudi Arabian organization or company, certified by MOFA and the Saudi Chamber of Commerce. 
  • The letter must include the applicant’s name, position, block visa number, and date. 
  1. Visa Referral Note
  • Issued by MOFA, indicating the Saudi work visa number and date. 
  1. Employment Contract
  • A contract signed by both the applicant and the Saudi employer. 
  • The contract must be certified by MOFA and the Saudi Chamber of Commerce. 
  1. University Diploma or Technical Certificate
  • A certified and notarized copy of the applicant’s degree or diploma certificate. 
  • Must be authenticated by the relevant authorities in the applicant’s home country or the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and the Saudi Arabian embassy in the respective country. 
  1. Medical Report
  • Three copies of a recent medical report issued within the last three months by a licensed physician. 
  • The report must include the physician’s license number and address and confirm that the applicant is disease-free, supported by lab results. 
  1. Police Report
  • A recent police report issued within six months prior to the application, detailing the applicant’s criminal record or confirming the absence thereof. 
  1. Medical Insurance
  • Applicants must purchase health insurance from Saudi Arabia. 
  1. Passport
  • A passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry into Saudi Arabia, with at least two empty visa pages. 
  1. Personal Photographs
  • One recent color photograph with a plain white background. 
  • One recent color photograph following the guidelines given by the government. 

Application Submission 

  • Online Application: Complete the Saudi work visa application form on the MOFA portal. 
  • Document Submission: Submit the application and required documents by mail or in person at the nearest Saudi embassy or representation office abroad. 
  • Visa Fee Payment Proof: Provide proof of online payment through the Enjazit website. 

Additional Considerations 

  • Residency Permit (Iqama): After arriving in Saudi Arabia, the employee must apply for an iqama through the Ministry of Labor. The application will be forwarded to the Ministry of Interior, and the iqama will be issued by the Directorate General for Passports. 
  • Exit/Re-Entry Permits: Employees wishing to travel in and out of Saudi Arabia during their employment must apply for an Exit/Re-Entry Permit through the Ministry of Interior, typically issued within one week 

Professional Verification Scheme 

Introduced in 2021, this scheme requires foreign nationals in 23 technical fields to pass an exam to prove their qualifications. Initially for Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi nationals, it expanded to include Sri Lankan nationals in 2023 and may include other nationalities in the future. Employers cover the expenses for this program. 

Application Process 

The employer initiates the work visa application process: 

  1. Registration: The sponsoring employer registers with the Ministry of Interior. 
  2. Immigration File: The Ministry of Interior opens an immigration file for the employer’s expatriate employees. 
  3. Work Visa Application: The employer submits the work visa application to the Ministry of Labor. 
  4. Approval and Notification: Once approved, the Ministry of Labor notifies the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which issues a Visa Authorization Number within two weeks. 
  5. Employee Submission: The employee submits their application to the Saudi embassy with the required documents. 
  6. Visa Issuance: The embassy issues the visa within one to three weeks, allowing the employee to travel to Saudi Arabia. 
  7. Residency Permit (Iqama): In Saudi Arabia, the employee applies for an iqama through the Ministry of Labor, which is then processed by the Ministry of Interior and issued by the Directorate General for Passports. 

Employees must carry their iqama at all times as proof of legal residency and employment. 

Exit/Re-Entry Permits 

Employees wishing to travel in and out of Saudi Arabia during their employment must apply for an Exit/Re-Entry Permit through the Ministry of Interior, typically issued within one week. 

Important Considerations 

  • Compliance with Local Laws: Employees must adhere to Saudi Arabian laws to avoid deportation. 
  • Family Visas: Employees planning to bring spouses or children must obtain family visit visas. 

Understanding the detailed process and requirements for obtaining work visas and residency permits is vital for successful business expansion into Saudi Arabia. Ensuring compliance with all legal and procedural aspects will facilitate a smooth transition for your employees and contribute to the growth of your company in the region 

Effortless Saudi Visa Solutions with Helpline Group

With over 25 years of expertise, Helpline Group specializes in streamlining employment visa processes for companies entering the Saudi Arabian market. Our team of professionals is well-versed in the latest Saudi Arabian laws and regulations, ensuring compliance and efficiency at every step. We offer continuous support, making the visa application process easy and quick for both employers and employees. Take the first step toward building your exceptional team in Saudi Arabia by contacting us now for expert visa assistance.