Saudi Arabia

All you Need to Know About IQAMA

With the rise and growth of the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and the great offer of professionals from around the globe interested in expanding their personal and professional experience in one of the countries with the best working conditions in this sector, more people contemplate the possibility of immigration to Saudi Arabia, seeking new horizons on this side of the world.

In this article, you will see how IQAMA acts as a set of laws on the situation and rights of foreign migrants in the country. If you want to enter and work in the Middle East, you must obtain the IQAMA, a residence card, and a work permit once a foreigner enters the country.

  1. What is the IQAMA?
  2. Applying for IQAMA in Saudi Arabia
  3. How large is immigration in Saudi Arabia?
  4. How to get permanent residence in Saudi Arabia?
  5. What are the requirements to process your IQAMA?
  6. Restrictions and exemptions regarding immigration to Saudi Arabia
  7. What is the approximate time for the immigration process in Saudi Arabia?
  8. How can we help you obtain more information about immigration to Saudi Arabia?

1. What is the IQAMA?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab state with a population of about 31.8 million. Including about 11.7 million foreigners. In order to attract foreign investors, the government established the Saudi General Investment Authority to provide incentives.

Of the 13,800,000 people employed in the country, only 3,000,000 are of local nationality. This means that more than 78% are foreigners. One of the reasons for the IQAMA is to manage foreign hiring. This is a residence permit issued to expatriates arriving in Saudi Arabia. Below you will find more information about this permit, its background, and the application process.

The Middle East is strict in terms of compliance with immigration and labor policies. Especially when it comes to foreign employees. For a non-Saudi citizen to work there, they must first find a local sponsor. This is a local employer who will apply for and obtain the necessary work permit and cards.

Foreign employees can only be employed for a fixed period equal to the duration of their work permit and IQAMA. The permit is valid in the private sector. Must be renewed for a maximum of one year after it.

2. Applying for the IQAMA in Saudi Arabia

Here is described the IQAMA process for a foreign employee in the Middle East:

The sponsor must apply for approval of a work visa from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD). Business work visas are quotas issued by the MLSD that allows entities to sponsor foreign employees for long-term work authorization.

Once the visa is approved, the sponsoring company must obtain an authorization number and power of attorney through the Middle East Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The visa for companies is settled based on the candidate’s nationality.

This allows the application for a work visa in the country of residence of the foreign employee. The applicant must attach a medical certificate issued by an authorized health center. After the work visa approval, the foreign employee can enter the area and start working. Within 90 days of arrival, a work permit application and IQAMA must be submitted to MLSD.

If the foreign employee needs to leave and re-enter the Middle East while their work permit and IQAMA are valid, they must obtain an exit and re-entry permit through the Ministry of the Interior.

3. How large is immigration in Saudi Arabia?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a major destination country for immigrants. There are 9 million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, of which 1.4 – 2 million are migrant domestic workers. Male immigration is higher than female. With 9,001,182 men, which represents 68.59% of the total, compared to 4,121,156 female immigrants, which are 31.40%.

Saudi Arabia hosts a large number of unregistered irregular migrants. It has recently become one of the most active countries with immigration restriction policies. According to the latest data published by the government in Saudi Arabia, there are 13,122,338 immigrants. This represents 38.35% of the population of Saudi Arabia.

This has built a barrier along the Saudi-Yemeni. In addition, patrols in search of illegal migrants and mass deportations of migrants. Ethiopia is Saudi Arabia’s main country of origin for labor migration. During the last 3 years, between 100,000 and 200,000 Ethiopian migrants moved to Saudi Arabia.

2,266 refugee claims were received in Saudi Arabia in the last years. Most were from Syria. There were an approximated 1000 decisions on the initial applications. All responded positively about 100 percent. The most positive requests have been for immigrants from Yemen and Syria.

4. How to get permanent residence in Saudi Arabia?

Take your business’s family visa forms and fill them out in the Arabic language. Get it in the city of your employer’s company, and the chamber of commerce attests to it. If you cannot find this form, pick it up at the Amsterdam office. To obtain residency, you must apply for a Premium Resident Card (PRC) online.

This country offers two kinds of residency:

  • Permanent residence.
  • Renewable temporary residence.

The renewable temporary residence has an annual fee of 100,000 AED ($27,000). This requires candidates to be at least 21 years old. The applicant must have a valid passport to demonstrate financial stability. Residency applicants must have a clean criminal record. In addition, there must be no evidence from medical reports that they are not healthy.

It is possible to apply for visas for your family jointly if there is an agreement with the contracting company. Otherwise, you must travel to Arabia and start the procedures to obtain your IQAMA. Also, to obtain the authorization of the government to apply for the residence visa for family members.

If you are not legally married, you cannot apply for a residence visa for your partner. There are other types of visas that you can process according to the needs of the worker, member, or company.

5. What are the requirements to process your IQAMA?

Because the government requires that applicants always have a sponsor, having a formal job offer issued by a company in Saudi Arabia is the most important thing to process your work visa. Once this agreement exists, the company requests authorization to process the visa at the corresponding embassy according to the nationality.

People must meet some requirements for the labor and immigration laws of Saudi Arabia. This is for a person to legally work in the country. In addition to general conditions that all workers must meet, such as obtaining a work permit, there are specific formalities.

The main requirement to work legally is to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization. When someone asks for a work permit, they also conduct mandatory training for workers.

In order to obtain a permit, foreigners must be free of all forms of communicable diseases. In addition, depending on the job, you must also test negative for syphilis and hepatitis B.

6. What are the restrictions and exemptions?

The Arabian government has some restrictions both to grant the visa and to allow the entry of foreigners to the kingdom. This is as a result of its politics, traditions, or its model of society.

  • Saudi Arabia does not allow issuing a visa to an Israeli passport holder or to anyone who has an Israeli stamp on any page of their passport.
  • The passport must be valid for at least 6 months at the time of entering the kingdom.
  • Saudi Arabia does not allow people who do not respect the appropriate codes of conduct and dress according to their laws and traditions to enter the kingdom.
  • Women and children must be accompanied by a Moharram (Male Relative).
  • Passport holders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE, and Yemen do not require a visa. Nor passengers in transit (with restrictions on the time of scale).

Saudi Arabia launched a labor reform that eliminates some restrictions on immigrants, such as the ban on traveling or changing jobs, although it excludes domestic workers, including domestic workers, drivers, and gardeners.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Human Resources, quoted by local media, the new reform is an “improvement of the contractual relationship”. This allows workers mobility to another company, and return, as long as notify the employer or “sponsor”.

7. What is the approximate time for the immigration process in Saudi Arabia?

The total time depends largely on the entities in charge of processing the required documents (according to the type of visa) in the applicant’s country of origin. As well as the transit time of the documents (if applicable).

However, the embassies have an average service time of one week once the correct and complete documents are available. Unless there is a celebration or important event in the country where the embassy is located or in the Middle East.

The best moment to apply for a Saudi Arabia visa is one or two months before the trip date. However, if you do not have much time, it is possible that your visa is processed with a faster service if the consulate allows it.

The overall immigration and work authorization process in the Middle East can be time-consuming and complex. The time required to complete the application is very variable. That is depending on the nationality of the applicant and the position proposed.

8How can we help you obtain more information about immigration to Saudi Arabia?

We have a clear objective: to help you with everything you need regarding recruitment and all migration processes from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. We know that it can be a complicated process to understand. With us, you will always have the information at hand so that these steps are as simple as possible.

Obtaining our services can be a great help to anyone who requires support in various areas such as human resources, immigration, hiring remote staff, or payroll outsourcing. We cover many spaces and essential areas for your company to improve day after day.

We always focus on providing the best quality of service. Because in the end we will be an ally for you and your company, or we will also be your right hand when it comes to following each process to work in these lands with great opportunities.

Do you have any troubles with your company? Contact us for further information about these topics. Do not hesitate to contact our offices at +971 433 1 688, or if you prefer, you can send us an e-mail at [email protected] and you will be able to obtain more information that will be of immense help to you, all added to the warmth and kindness that our agents will offer you.

If you wish to add your CV, please go to Do not hesitate and send your resume to [email protected]. We will be eager to read it!

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