Working in Jeddah

Jeddah
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Updated 2022-03-03 08:42

Jeddah is the most diverse city in Saudi Arabia. It is home to 3,4 million people and to the largest multicultural expatriate community in the region. The city is often referred to as the business capital of Saudi Arabia. Known as the Bride of the Red Sea, Jeddah lies on its eastern coast, which is a drive for domestic tourism.

For ages, the city has been the main port for Hajj pilgrims. While preserving its historical legacy during the past years, Jeddah has developed into an important business hub, a port for exporting non-oil-related goods. The city is also popular for its relaxed ambience and morals, compared to Riyadh and other parts of Saudi Arabia, which makes it even more apреaling for living and working here. With so much happening, it is easy to find a job in Jeddah or to start a business.

Good to know:

To date, Jeddah's workforce consists of some 5 million workers, including a large number of expatriates.

Key industries in Jeddah

Jeddah's economy is very favorable for business dealings because of its large and diverse population. Many expats find that opening small and medium businesses in Saudi Arabia is very prosperous. Catering to certain ethnic diasporas has been rewarding, with cultural restaurants, markets and stores being crowded daily. Following the official opening of Saudi Arabia to tourists (in September 2019), the city is becoming a trendy destination and tourism is creating a lot of work and business opportunities.

Head offices located in Jeddah include Saudia Airlines, Saudi Binladin Group and others.

Factories, refiners, and the ports can also be found in the region.

Less than an hour from Jeddah is King Abdullah Economic City or KAEC - a megaproject of the Kingdom, combining a business district, an education city, a residential zone, an industrial port, and many more. KAEC is an investment centre that promises up to one million jobs. The project is still undergoing, though partly operational with some hotels and offices that have been already opened.

Job hunting in Jeddah

If you want to work in Jeddah — and in Saudi Arabia in general — you will need to secure a job offer in advance so that you can apply for a work visa to come to the country. Thus, job hunting in Jeddah can be tricky and you will need to do a lot of your job searching online.

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

Important:

When applying for a job in Saudi Arabia, keep in mind that Saudi Arabia employers are typically looking for very specific expertise when hiring expatriates. Especially, since they have to justify employing an expatriate as opposed to a Saudi Arabia 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 guidelines for composing a CV for Saudi Arabia:

If you are applying for an expatriate position, you can send out a standard Western-style CV. This can be 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).

For most positions, you can send your CV and Cover Letter in English. 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.

Make sure to customize your Cover Letter for the position you are applying for. As we've mentioned above, it is important to highlight 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, it is also important to be well 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, before applying for any position, make sure to do proper research of the company you will be in contact with. Pay attention to not only what the company is looking for but also to the language they use, their mission, social media presence and more. All of this information can be very helpful in customizing the content and tone of your CV and Cover Letter.

Important:

Saudization, officially the Saudi Nationalization Scheme or Nitaqat, is a policy enforced by the Ministry of Labor that requires Saudi companies to employ Saudi nationals on a quota basis. This makes it harder for local companies to hire foreign employees — and each hire requires a justification and proof that the position in question can not be filled locally.

How to apply for a working visa to Saudi Arabia

In order to be in long-term employment in Saudi Arabia legally, you will need to apply for an Iqama. The Iqama is a national residency permit for foreigners living and working in Saudi Arabia. It accounts for your presence in the country, the type of work you are eligible to do and who you are employed by.

An Iqama card looks just like an ID card and contains the following information:

  • Your legal name and nationality
  • Your date of birth
  • The Iqama number
  • Your job title and the name of your employer
  • The validity period, issuance date and expiry date of your Iqama card

Important:

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 is initiated by your employer in Saudi Arabia. They will first need to submit an application to the Ministry of Labour and Social development. After the Ministry approves the company's permit to sponsor a foreign employee, your employer can obtain a Visa Authorisation number and a Power of Attorney through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia.

Once you arrive in Saudi Arabia, 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.

Important:

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.

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:

If you are interested in working in Saudi Arabia for a shorter term, you can apply for a business visit visa or a work visit visa.

A business visa will let you operate business transactions with a Saudi company. A work visit visa allows employees from a foreign company to work in Saudi Arabia for a period of 30 to 90 days.

Working hours in Saudi Arabia

A typical working day in Saudi Arabia lasts from Sunday to Thursday from 8 am to 6 pm or from 7 am to 7 pm with a longer lunch break.

Friday and Saturday are days off. By law, the working week lasts for a maximum of 48 hours and is shortened to 30 hours per week during the holy month of Ramadan.

Employees typically get 21 days of paid leave. After you've completed five years of employment, your paid leave goes up to 30 days.

There are also three main public holidays in Saudi Arabia. The number of days off you receive during each holiday depends on whether you work in the public or private sector:

  • Eid Al Fitr (three to seven days)
  • Eid Al Adha (three to seven days)
  • Saudi National Day (23 September)

Work-life balance in Saudi Arabia

Work life balance is not particularly observed and you may find that a lot of people work overtime and are not involved in many activities outside of work in Saudi Arabia. Working in a Saudi company also means that you may be considered “on call” way past the traditional working hours. What's more, flexible hours and remote working options are very limited in Saudi Arabia.

Workers' rights in Saudi Arabia

Unfortunately, violations of foreign workers' rights in Saudi Arabia are not uncommon in the country — especially when it comes to manual labor. Common labor law court cases deal with work contract disputes, workers' rights, salaries, work injuries and related compensations.

Another problematic practice that is still in force in some companies in Saudi Arabia is the confiscation of passports of foreign employees on their arrival in the country. Basically, when employed in such a company, foreign employees will need to ask their employer for permission when they want to leave the country.

Another potential complication is that there are no trade or labor unions in the country.

The absence of proper representation makes solving work-related disputes and protecting workers' rights more complicated.

Women in the workplace in Saudi Arabia

Until quite recently, women in Saudi Arabia used to have very limited access to the workplace. However, things are now changing. For example, part of Saudi Vision 2030 is to encourage women to play a bigger part in the country's economy. As of now, close to one in four employees in Saudi Arabia are now women. This number is expected to receive a 30% boost by 2030.

The positive development of more women entering the workplace is, unfortunately, offset by a substantial gender pay gap: on average, women in Saudi Arabia earn over 50% less compared to their male colleagues.

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.