Working in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia
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Updated 2020-04-30 07:56

Finding a job in Saudi Arabia is mostly done before entering the country.  Employment visas are still the most issued type of visa in Saudi Arabia, even though the country has started issuing tourist visas since September 2019.

Once you've found a job, completed the interview process, and been offered a contract, you will be issued a visa. When you've agreed to relocate to Saudi Arabia with the sponsor of your prospective job, settling in is the next step. Most contracts accommodate families but make sure that dependants will be issued visas in the contract.

The labour market in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a lucrative place for expatriates to find work and is famous for jobs in the oil industry, which is still a leading employer. However, with a growing population, massive cultural and social development, and in line with the national Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's economy is moving towards other profitable industries. Today, the Kingdom is seeking less foreign workforce but more foreign investment. Again, with the ambitious infrastructure, construction projects, like NEOM, the cross-border, high-tech city in Tabuk, Northwestern Saudi Arabia, opportunities for new business and jobs are growing. The entertainment sector is also in high demand, as cinemas, concerts, festivals are not forbidden anymore. Keep in mind that Saudis are currently facing rising unemployment. To tackle those difficulties, the government has introduced 'Saudisation Program' for the next couple of years.

Finding a job in Saudi Arabia

Online searches, LinkedIn matches,  job websites, and career fairs are ways to inquire about possible job opportunities in Saudi Arabia. Before starting your job hunt, get a free CV review at TopCV.

Whichever way you go about finding a job, keep in mind that all relevant details and negotiation will take place with your prospective employer before you even enter the country.

If you decide to leave Saudi Arabia and come back at another time with another employer, make sure you leave on good terms. Saudi Arabia 'sponsors' employers and can deter your chances of getting another job by blacklisting you with the Ministry of Labour.

 Good to know:

Saudi Arabia does not recognise College Diplomas as sufficient post-secondary education. Employers emphasise the need for University Degrees and higher education.

Benefits of working in Saudi Arabia

Each job comes with a set of benefits, but the common inclusions are:

  • At least one round-trip airfare to your home country (dependents included)
  • Accommodation provided or housing allowance
  • Good coverage for medical insurance (dependents included)
  • Annual salary bonus and/or Completion of Service bonus

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

Working hours, weekend breaks and holidays in Saudi Arabia 

With the aim of making the Saudi economy more flexible and modern, since January 2020, the government allows businesses to operate 24/7. Despite that, the prayer time breaks - 5 times a day - are still widely practised by the public and private sector, and this practice has to be respected by foreigners.

Working and school days in the Kingdom go from Sunday to Thursday. The weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. On Fridays, the Muslims perform special prayer sermons, which are longer. Therefore, most private entities, including restaurants, shopping malls, etc., are either closed between 11 am and 1 pm (timing is according to the sun's sky path and can vary), or are start working in the afternoon.

As Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country, there are no holidays for Christmas, Easter, New Year and other festivals as per the Gregorian Calendar. Official days off are usually around the National day - 23rd of September and for the two Eids (as per the Islamic calendar) which are religious holidays after the holy month of Ramadan and for the Hajj pilgrimage.

Employment contract in Saudi Arabia

If the contract of a non-Saudi employee has no fixed duration, the working permit, (the Iqama) shall be the basis for the duration. Find all relevant information on the Ministry of Labour and Social Development website. The option to renew and/or extend will be outlined in your contract. The basis of all contracts may include the following:

  • Details about your job (title and description)
  • Official working hours, holiday working hours, official holidays, leave days, sick days, etc.
  • Persons responsible for fees associated with exit/re-entry visas, except for one given annually
  • The sponsor or company's details
  • Your basic salary as well as details regarding possible overtime, bonus, trial period, etc.
  • The terms and conditions in case of resignation or dismissal during the trial period
  • The contract duration and possibility of renewal
  • Rent (either in full or partially) if it is 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 cover your family members and dependents 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 leave
  • 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
  • Authorisation (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 for 1 to 5 years for the company, and equal to 1 month's salary for each additional year beyond 5 years of service.

 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 authorisation. Working in Saudi Arabia can turn out a very successful career step, especially if one is qualified and highly-skilled, and familiar with the rules and their rights. 

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.