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Here is some useful information on how to obtain an Iqama, which is a residence and work permit.

When you've finally arrived in Saudi Arabia, the next step of staying here legally is obtaining an Iqama. An Iqama is the legal residency permit that permits expats to live and work in Saudi Arabia while the Iqama is valid.

The procedure for getting an Iqama is mostly done by an expat's employer. The expat is responsible for getting an Iqama only when they choose to bring their family, and they have to make sure to get an Iqama for every member of their immediate family (if permissible).

Below you will find the procedures, rules, and limitations of the Iqama.

It's important to note that every expat is legally required to have an Iqama, and it is very important to get one as soon as possible because it is essential to everyday functionality within Saudi Arabia.


The Iqama is the national residency permit for foreigners living and working in Saudi Arabia. It is a registered permit by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs that accounts for your presence in Saudi Arabia, the type of work you are eligible to do in Saudi Arabia, and who is your employer.

The physical Iqama card is a standard identification card that should be with you at all times. It is the most important document you will be issued in Saudi Arabia. On the card will be your full legal name, date of birth, nationality, job title, employer name, and Iqama number. It also will state the length of validity, including issuance date and expiry date.


Your employer is responsible for your Iqama and essentially the only person that can get one issued to you. Once you arrive in Saudi Arabia, they will ask you for your passport and 2 passport-sized pictures in order to complete the application for an Iqama. The HR department at your workplace often handles this.

You may have already completed a full medical exam when applying for your visa, however, another full health examination will occur when applying for the Iqama. A mandatory health examination from a local designated health clinic will be performed and results will be submitted with your Iqama application.

You will be asked to sign a few application forms that will be filed with the Saudi Foreign Ministry. Depending on the load of applications at any given time, you should receive your Iqama in less than two weeks.

Once you receive your Iqama, you are free to apply for Iqamas for the rest of your family. The procedure is slightly different, in that the Iqamas issued to your spouse and children are not tied to your employer like yours, but rather they are attached to you.

You essentially become the person responsible for your family and their Iqama status. On their Iqamas, similar to yours, will include all the essential information such as legal names, date of birth, etc. However, rather than job titles and your employers' name, it will say that they are your dependent.


Here are few limitations that expats may face with the Iqama:

  • Your Iqama/ Iqama number is attached to all legal business in Saudi Arabia
  • You must have an Iqama to open a bank account, rent a home, get mobile services, register for utilities etc.
  • You must renew your Iqama every year (depending on your employer, the renewal fee may/may not be covered).
  • You will pay the renewal fees for spousal and dependent Iqamas.
  • Once your Iqama expires, all banking accounts will be frozen (until proof of renewal is presented)
  • If your dependent is above the age of 18 and male, he will not be granted an Iqama
  • You must show proof of legal marriage to obtain a spousal Iqama (no common-law partners or girlfriends permitted)
  • Your employer has the right to cancel your Iqama at any given time. This will automatically cancel your family members' Iqama as well.

Good to know:

You are required to be respectful towards Islamic laws and regulations of the country, as well as towards the values and traditions of Saudi society. Any displays of disrespect towards the Saudi standard are the risk of Iqama cancellation.

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.