Finding a job and working in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia
Updated 2022-02-24 08:52

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.

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.

Saudisation (also known as Nitaqat) is a policy enforced by the Saudi government that aims to get more Saudi nationals involved in the workplace. Under this scheme, companies in the private sector are obligated to employ Saudi nationals instead of non-Saudi workers.

How to find a job in Saudi Arabia

To work in Saudi Arabia, you will need to apply for a work visa or residence permit, known as Iqama. One of the conditions for getting a work permit to the country is having a valid job offer from Saudi Arabia. This is absolutely essential as your future employer will actually be the one applying for the Iqama on your part. This means that your job search in Saudi Arabia should actually start way ahead of your travel to the country.

The most obvious way to start your job hunt is online. You can start by checking some of the most popular job search websites in the region like Bayt,Naukrigulf, Mihnati and others. International career websites are also a good place to start — check out MonsterGulf, Glassdoor, Indeed and others.

Another way to go about your job search is by checking job offers on professional social media like LinkedIn or expat groups and forums in the cities you would prefer to move to. Plus, if you already have a company on your radar that you would like to work for, it wouldn't hurt to send out your CV and cover letter to their hiring manager.


When applying for a job in Saudi Arabia, keep in mind that due to the introduction of Saudisation policies (see above), employers in Saudi Arabia are generally looking for very specific expertise when hiring expatriates. In most cases, employers will need to justify employing an expatriate as opposed to a Saudi citizen. This is why it is important that you highlight the specific skill set required for the position you are applying for — both in your CV and cover letter.

Here are a few tips for composing your CV and cover letter when applying for a job in Saudi Arabia:

If you are applying for an expatriate position, composing your CV in English is generally accepted. However, if the job position you are applying for requires a good command of Arabic or if you know that your potential employer doesn't speak English, it's best to also attach copies of your CV and cover letter in Arabic.

You can send out a typical Western-style CV using a chronological CV format (where you list your work experience in reverse order: starting from the latest position); a skill-based format (where you center your CV around the skills and expertise that you want to highlight) or a mixed format (where you combine the elements from both CV formats described above).

When writing the cover letter, make sure to customize it as much as possible for the position you are applying for. As we've stressed above, due to Saudisation policies, it's important that you highlight the experience and expertise relevant to the position you are applying for. This will be especially important for your employer as Saudi employment guidelines require expatriate hirings to be well justified.

When compiling your CV, be aware of the local sensitivities and restrictions. For instance, it's highly recommended not to make any references to countries like Israel and Iran. It's also best to avoid any mention of religious organizations and groups.

Finally, as you send in your application for a job, make sure to do some prior research on the company you are applying to work for. Read through the job ad and try to use the same style in your application, and emphasize the qualities and skills you have that match the job offer the most.

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.

Applying for a work visa to Saudi Arabia

To work in Saudi Arabia legally, you need to apply for a residence permit known as Iqama. The Iqama is a national residency permit for foreigners living and working in Saudi Arabia that accounts for your presence in the country, the type of work you are eligible to do and who you are employed by. An Iqama looks like an ID card and includes your legal name and nationality, date of birth, unique identification number, job title and employer.


You must carry your Iqama card with you at all times. If you are stopped by police in Saudi Arabia and don't have your Iqama card with you, you could be facing a fine of upwards of SAR 1,000 and even a jail term of up to six months.

If you have lost your Iqama card or if it has been stolen, you need to immediately report it missing. If you haven't reported that your card has been lost in time, you could also be fined in the amount of up to SAR 3,000. Overstaying in the country on an expired Iqama can result in deportation.

The Iqama application process will be managed by your employer in Saudi Arabia, and it involves several steps like applying for a permit to sponsor a foreign employee, receiving a Visa Authorisation number and more.

Once you arrive in the country, your employer will have 90 days to apply for an Iqama visa for you. Once you receive it, you will be able to apply to an Iqama for your family members.

The Iqamas issued to your spouse and children are not tied to your employer like yours, but instead, they are attached to you.


The only way to be legally employed in Saudi Arabia is by applying for and receiving a work visa. If you try to work in Saudi Arabia illegally and get caught, the penalties can be quite severe. You may have to pay a fine of up to SAR 10,000 and are also likely to be arrested and deported.


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.

Benefits of working in Saudi Arabia

There are a number of benefits that come with working in Saudi Arabia.

First, when working for a local or international company here, expats can generally expats rather generous employment packages that would often include:

  • 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. Also, keep in mind that nationality, unfortunately, is often one of the determining factors in the remuneration package you will receive. Expats from the US or Western Europe tend to be offered higher salaries compared to those coming from less developed countries.

Another benefit of working in Saudi Arabia is the absence of income tax. When working here, you won't have to worry about paying any deductions from your salary or filing tax returns. With that, you may still be required to pay taxes back home if your country doesn't have double taxation agreements with Saudi Arabia.

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 contracts 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 the possibility of renewal
  • Rent (either 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 to Saudi Arabia, 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 canceled 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.

Women in the workplace in Saudi Arabia

Until quite recently, women in Saudi Arabia were very restricted in their involvement in the country's economy. However, this is changing under Saudi Vision 2030 — and one of the initiatives of the new policy is to encourage Saudi women to play a bigger part in the country's economy. As of now, close to one in four employees in Saudi Arabia are women. This number is expected to receive a 30% boost by 2030. Unfortunately, this is offset by a substantial gender pay gap: on average, women in Saudi Arabia earn over 50% less compared to their male colleagues.

While women are allowed to work in Saudi Arabia, Saudi women will need permission from their male guardian (husband, brother, father, etc.) to seek employment.

Women can work alongside men — however, certain conditions will need to be met. For instance, the office in which women are employed needs to be equipped with bathrooms for men and women, a security system in place and private lunch and prayer areas for men and women. Naturally, these demands can be quite pricey for companies to fulfill — which is why a lot of businesses are often reluctant to hire women.

Useful links:

Ministry of Labour and Social Development

Taxes in Saudi Arabia

Starting a business in Saudi Arabia

Working in Jeddah

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.