Iqama visa in Saudi Arabia

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Updated 2020-04-17 11:17

The sole condition to stay legally in Saudi Arabia is obtaining an Iqama. An Iqama is the legal residency permit that allows expats to live and work in Saudi Arabia while the Iqama is valid.

The procedure for getting an Iqama is usually the expat employer`s obligation. The local sponsor has to apply and secure the work permit for expatriates who arrive in Saudi Arabia with an employment visa. 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.

Iqama

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 Labour and Social development 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.

Procedures for obtaining an Iqama

First and foremost, your employer/ the sponsor company has to apply for Block visa and to submit this application to the Ministry of Labour and Social development. Then, the Ministry issues a permit to the company to sponsor a foreign worker. The duration is up to one year and could be renewed. If there is an approval, depending on the requirements and the iqama quotas, the sponsoring company obtains a Visa Authorisation number and a Power of Attorney, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia.

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.

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 instead, they are attached to you.

You essentially become the person responsible for your family and their Iqama status. 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.

Limitations to the Iqama

Here are a 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 in Saudi Arabia, 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.
  • If you must exit and reenter the country, while the work permit and iqama are authorised, you have to obtain with exit and re-entry permit. 

You can always check yours and your family`s / dependents, iqama status, including the fees on the Ministry of interior`s webpage and via the app Absher.

Special privilege iqama

Recently, the Council of Ministers approved the Special privilege iqama law, for qualified foreigners. The new law allows the holders of the special iqamas ( permanent one will cost SAR 800 000, the one year temporary - SAR 100 000 )  to enjoy many privileges, like owning real estate, renting out properties and more. A Special Privilege Iqama Center has been created to regulate everything related with the new iqama

 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.