The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia) is a favorable place for foreign talent to live and work. Workers in Saudi Arabia benefit from tax-free income, relatively simple visa rules, affordable living costs, an English-speaking business community, low crime rate and culture. rich.
In fact, of the approximately 14 million people employed in Saudi Arabia, 73% are foreign nationals. The country offers many opportunities for professionals to develop their careers and provides global companies with a large and diverse talent pool of highly skilled workers.
People who arrive in Saudi Arabia with a work permit must obtain an Iqama, or residence visa, which the government of Saudi Arabia uses to manage all expatriates in the country. Employers must apply and sponsor Iqamas for foreign talent in Saudi Arabia.
In this guide, learn about an Iqama, the application process, costs, compliance risks to consider, and how to make it easier to hire and relocate foreign talent to Saudi Arabia.
Meaning of Iqama in Saudi Arabia
An Iqama is a residency visa that allows foreign residents to live and work in Saudi Arabia. Foreign workers must have an Iqama residence visa in Saudi Arabia and a work permit to comply with Labor law in Saudi Arabia and immigration policies.
How to Get an Iqama Visa in Saudi Arabia
Before an expat can live and work in Saudi Arabia, they must be sponsored by a local employer, such as a Saudi company or a foreign entity licensed to do business in the country. The employer applies for and obtains the necessary work permit and Iqama for each foreign employee.
The following steps explain how to obtain an Iqama visa in Saudi Arabia:
1. Apply for a bloc visa
The sponsoring company must first seek bulk visa approval from the Department of Labor and Social Development (MLSD). Block visas are quotas issued by the MLSD that allow entities to sponsor foreign employees for long-term work authorization. The MLSD grants the visa in bulk based on the nationality and position of the applicant.
2. Obtain a visa authorization number + power of attorney
Upon bulk visa approval, the sponsoring company must obtain a visa authorization number and power of attorney through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia. This step allows the sponsoring company to apply for a work permit in their employee’s country of residence with the appropriate Saudi diplomatic mission.
3. Apply for a work permit
Once the sponsoring company has obtained a visa authorization number and power of attorney, they must apply for a work permit on behalf of their employee. The work permit application must be accompanied by the employee’s medical certificate issued by an approved medical centre.
4. Enter Saudi Arabia to start labor
After approval of the work permit, the foreign employee can enter the KSA and start working.
5. Submit Iqama and Work Permit Application
Within 90 days of the employee’s arrival, the sponsoring employer must submit an application for a work permit and Iqama to MLSD. If the foreign employee needs to exit and re-enter Saudi Arabia at any time during the validity of their work permit and Iqama, the sponsor must submit an exit and re-entry permit to the Ministry of Interior.
How long is an Iqama visa valid?
The foreign employee’s work permit and Iqama are valid for one year from the date of issue and can be renewed later.
How much does it cost to get an Iqama visa?
THE annual cost to issue or renew an Iqama visa is 650 Saudi Riyals (SAR). Under Saudi law, the employer is responsible for all fees associated with a foreign employee’s work permit and Iqama. The employer must also pay repatriation costs if the employee ceases employment.
Iqama tax in Saudi Arabia
In addition to the annual Iqama cost, there is a monthly expatriate fee, or Maktab Amal fee, for obtaining a work permit. The monthly fee for obtaining a work permit is SAR 800, and the employer is responsible for paying the fee.
Foreign employees with dependent family members on their Iqama must pay a dependent fee of SAR 400 per month per dependant. Saudi law does not state whether the sponsor or the foreign employee must pay these costs, so it is up to the employer to decide whether they will cover the costs.
Additionally, the sponsoring employer may be required to pay a fine if their employee’s Iqama is lost or expires before renewal.
The Challenges of Obtaining an Iqama Residence Visa in Saudi Arabia
Employers may encounter the following challenges when obtaining a Saudi Arabia Iqama visa.
The application for Iqama and work visa is complex
Obtaining an Iqama visa and work permit for a foreign employee takes time and requires detailed documentation. Employers must initiate the application and submit all necessary documents. This process can sometimes take several months.
The employer may also be required to prove that no Saudi citizens are available to fill the position, as required by the Saudi Ministry of Labor’s Saudiization policy to prioritize the employment of Saudi citizens in the possible.
Non-compliance has serious consequences
Employers and their foreign employees must comply with Saudi employment laws and immigration regulations. If a company employs foreign talent without the proper work permits and Iqama visas, it faces heavy fines and the government of Saudi Arabia can revoke its business license. Foreign employees working without Iqama can also face heavy fines, arrest and deportation.
Local sponsorship requires the creation of an entity
A non-Saudi national needs the sponsorship of a local employer to obtain the necessary work permit and Iqama to work and stay in the country. However, local sponsorship requires entity establishmentwhich is costly and time-consuming for companies that do not have a legal presence in the country.
Alternatively, employers interested in recruit talent in saudi arabia can simplify the process by partnering with an Employer of Record (EoR). An EoR acts as a legal entity and employer of your overseas talent so you can forego the arduous entity creation process.
Additionally, an EoR takes on employer responsibilities such as onboarding, payroll, visa administration, and compliance with local employment and immigration laws, while you are responsible for management duties. such as compensation, job duties, projects and performance management.
Learn more: What is an employer of record?
Easily hire and offshor talent in Saudi Arabia
The immigration and work permit process in Saudi Arabia is long and complex. Companies interested in hiring foreign talent or relocating employees to Saudi Arabia can simplify the process with a full-service immigration partner like Velocity Global by their side.
Our integrated Global Immigration Solution simplifies obtaining a visa while ensuring compliance in Saudi Arabia and beyond. As part of our Global Employer of Record (EoR) solution, we help companies quickly and compliantly hire, pay, relocate and support talent worldwide – no entity creation required.
Contact Velocity Global today to learn how we can help simplify global hiring and immigration to Saudi Arabia and 185+ countries.