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Work in Saudi Arabia

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Find in this article all you should know about the Saudi labor market if you intend to work there.

Are you looking for a job in Saudi Arabia? Imagine how your relatives will react when announcing the news. Saudi Arabia is indeed, above all, deemed to be a very strict country as it is governed by a King. But it is also the Middle East's biggest country, hosting the world's major petroleum producers. Note that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy which is quite closed to foreigners. However, it still welcomes foreigners seeking a job there, alone or with their family.

In most cases, foreigners are transferred there with their family. Nevertheless, local authorities are quite selective regarding authorizing people to enter the country, especially when it comes to employment. Hence, make sure to be aware of the local labor market's regulations, conditions and requirements, as well as on employment contracts, permits required, etc.

Procedures

In fact, Saudi Arabia is only open to those who wish to work or set up a business there. Therefore, you need to seek the authorization of the Saudi Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Interior Affairs beforehand. Moreover, you will be required to obtain a work visa or permit to be able to work in the country. This should be quite simple provided you make proper planning and you have a guarantor such as a Saudi sponsor, an employer or a foreigner who is already in the country. You will also need some patience as the issuance of this permit can take several months.

 Good to know:

In case you are fired, your work and residency visa (Iqama) will be cancelled automatically. Thus, you will be repatriated to your home country.

Finally, if you wish to leave your job for another, you should seek a written authorization from your sponsor. The latter may even keep your travel documents in his possession.

Sponsor

The sponsor can be either a Saudi company or individual, or a foreign company or physical person who is already present in the country. The sponsor should be your (and your family's) guarantor. Note that it is the only person who can allow you to leave the company to join another one, help you register your car once you have settled there, etc. You therefore have to make sure to maintain your dependency relationship with your sponsor.

In case things go wrong, you are advised to keep friendly with your sponsor as the latter may be keeping all your travel documents.

Labor market

Although Saudi Arabia is quite close to foreigners, its economy mainly relies on foreign labor. In fact, the total active workforce consists of 50% of foreigners. The following sectors, in particular, require foreign expertise: gas, petroleum, engineering, information and communication technology, construction, education, retail, banking and finance, health care, etc. Moreover, foreigners are entitled to higher wages than those offered in Europe and in the United States. Women, for their part, are generally hired in the health care and education fields.

However, for a few years, Saudi authorities have started a process called "Saudization" according to which many sectors have adopted new policies. In fact, the recruitment of foreigners is now controlled through certain restrictions and fines. The objective is to establish a minimum quota regarding the employment of Saudis, that is at least 30% as most companies operating across the country have hired up to 90% of foreign workers, leaving less opportunities for Saudi nationals.

Find a job

One of the first things you should realize is that you are likely to start your job search and take care of all related procedures from your home country. Indeed, you are not allowed to seek prospects in advance on the spot as the tourist visa does not apply in Saudi Arabia, unlike in other countries. Hence, you can start inquiring about major national and foreign companies operating across the country. Try your luck by sending spontaneous job applications to those you have selected. You can also view job offers in classified ads in online local newspapers.

On the other hand, you can view offers on specialized job websites or even register with recruitment agencies operating in the Gulf region. Word of mouth may also help if you have friends or contacts in the country.

 Good to know:

Foreigners having sharp profiles have more chances of finding a job in Saudi Arabia. Low-skilled jobs are not very popular in the country, especially if you wish to live like a foreigner rather than like a local. Moreover, salaries offered in Saudi Arabia are much higher than in other countries and are exempted from income tax.

Benefits

Being hired in Saudi Arabia involves many benefits such as the following:

  • one or more annual flights to your home country (including your family if you are accompanied)
  • free accommodation or participation in rent fees
  • children's school fees etc.

Remember, however, to check all these conditions before signing your employment contract.

Employment contract

In general, employment contracts in Saudi Arabia have a 2 to 3 years duration and are renewable. These are signed remotely, that is from your home country, and require the production of a work visa or Iqama.

The employment contract will contain the following:

  • details about your job (title and description)
  • your working hours on working days, possibly on weekends, as well as changes related to the Ramadan period
  • details about your family members if they are accompanying you (along with costs)
  • entry and exit visa fees if you are eligible to holidays in your home country
  • the sponsor or company's details
  • your basic salary as well as details regarding possible overtime, bonus and trial period, etc.
  • the terms and conditions in case of resignation or dismissal during the trial period
  • the contract duration and possibility of renewal
  • benefits such as company car or other means of transportation which can also be used by other family members
  • rent, in full or part if these are supported by the employer (including relocation costs)
  • details regarding your expat health insurance (whether or not it is supported by your employer) as the local health system does not provide health costs for foreigners. Note that this insurance must obviously cover your family members if they are accompanying you.
  • conditions related to the annual airline ticket to visit your home country along with your family members
  • details regarding paid leaves
  • any final charges on your return to your home country once the mission is completed (in case the contract is not renewed)
  • details of children and school fees, including the school's name
  • authorization (if any) to take your pet with you, along with costs incurred
  • conditions and details of maternity or paternity leave
  • the terms and conditions regarding resignation, dismissal or termination of contract (including repatriation costs)
  • end of mission bonus which is generally equal to half a month's salary if you have worked for1 to 5 years for the company and equal to 1 month's salary for each additional year beyond 5 years of service.

 Useful links:

Expat.com – Job offers in Saudi Arabia
Expat.com – Saudi Arabia Forum 
Monster Gulf www.monstergulf.com
Bayt www.bayt.com
Mihnati www.mihnati.com
Al Jazeera Jobs www.aljazeerajobs.com
Gulf Talent www.gulftalent.com
Glassdoor www.glassdoor.com
Ministry of Commerce and Industry www.mci.gov.sa

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