How to find a job in Riyadh

Updated 2022-03-03 14:05

As the capital city of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is one of the biggest urban communities in the country and is home to a large number of expats. Riyadh is known to be the heart of Saudi Arabia, the place where decisions are taken. Most government agencies and ministries are located there, as well as foreign embassies.  

Riyadh offers unlimited opportunities for those who are looking for a job. Most of the people living in Riyadh work in or close to government authorities, but you can also find a number of local and foreign companies looking for manpower all around the city.

Riyadh's economy

Riyadh is a rich city, as evidenced by the wealthy Saudi nationals and princes living there. Besides, you can find many shopping outlets, a huge number of eateries, and various popular hotels, catering to the needs of everyone. Most expats are hired by these businesses.

With many State-subsidized and private schools, education seems to be one of the most promising fields in Riyadh, especially for qualified expats. English is turning into a standard in every day life, so there is a great demand for English teachers.

Banking, finance and foreign exchange is another promising field in Riyadh since a large portion of the significant firms are located there.

Unemployment and Saudisation

Saudi Arabia requires a considerable and increasingly innovative workforce to support its financial expansion plans, from specific college graduates to specialists. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has a high unemployment rate.

As of 2022, 8.2% of the population is unemployed. Also, around 66% of the populace is less than 30 years old. Since large numbers of young graduates are entering the workforce around a similar time, youth unemployment rate is considerably high.

To encourage Saudi nationals to work in Riyadh's private sector and thus fill in the available vacancies, the government started the "Saudisation" process that has four phases. Today, it is more difficult for expats to be hired in some industries. Also, employers are now more reluctant to undertake the procedures relating to obtaining a work permit for foreign workers, except in specific sectors where the required skills are not available locally.

Job hunting in Riyadh

Because of the way working visas work in Saudi Arabia, you will need a valid job offer before you can travel to the country. This means that you will probably need to secure a job in Riyadh remotely. There are lots of ways in which you can approach this.

The first place to start is probably one of the many job hunting portals focused on Saudi Arabia like Bayt, Naukrigulf, Mihnati and others. International career websites also list job offers from the capital: check out MonsterGulf, Glassdoor, Indeed and others.

When applying for a job in Riyadh, keep in mind that Saudi 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.

Another way to go about job hunting in Riyadh is to send out your CV and Cover Letter to local or international companies in the city that interest you. You can find prospective candidates on Linkedin and try to get in touch with HR managers of the companies you would like to work for. Alternatively, you can send your CV and Cover Letter to companies' corporate emails inquiring if a position in your field is available.

Here are a few extra tips for applying for a job in Riyadh:

When applying for a position that requires expats, you can send out a standard Western-style CV. It can be in the chronological format (where you list your work experience in reverse order: starting from the latest position), skill-based format (where you center your CV around the skills and expertise that you want to highlight) or mixed-format (a combination of elements from both formats described above).

In most situations, sending your CV and Cover Letter in English would be perfectly okay. However, if it is specifically stated in the job ad that a knowledge of Arabic is required, it is best to add copies of your CV and Cover Letter in Arabic.

When composing your Cover Letter, it is recommended to keep as specific to the position you are applying for as possible. Make sure to highlight what makes you the best candidate for the job: mention relevant experience, skill sets and career goals.

When composing your CV, take note of the local sensitivities and restrictions. For example, it's best to avoid making any references to religious groups or activities or certain countries like Israel or Iran.

Finally, it's always a good idea to invest some time into research before you compose your CV. Learn more about the company you are applying for, look through the job ad itself and take note of the language used and qualities emphasized. You can then use all of this information to customize your application to stand out among other candidates.

How to apply for a working visa to Saudi Arabia?

To work in Saudi Arabia legally, you will need to apply for an Iqama. The Iqama is a national residency permit for foreigners who have come to Saudi Arabia for work. Your Iqama card will include the following information:

  • Name and nationality
  • Date of birth
  • Iqama number
  • Job title and employer
  • Iqama card's expiration date


You must have your Iqama card with you at all times. If you are stopped by police and can't present your residency permit, you may be fined upwards of SAR 1,000 and even risk a jail term of up to six months. If you've lost your Iqama card or if it has been stolen, make sure to report this immediately. If you fail to report the loss of your Iqama in time, you will be fined upwards of SAR 3,000. Additionally, overstaying your Iqama can result in deportation.

The Iqama application process is generally handled by your employer. They will start by submitting an application at the Ministry of Labour and Social Development. Once this has been approved, your employer will get a Visa Authorisation number and receive the Power of Attorney via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Next, when you arrive in the country, your employer will need to secure your Iqama within 90 days. Once your Iqama is ready, you will be able to apply for residency permits for your family members. Note that your family's Iqamas will be tied to your residence permit and have the same expiration dates.


Note that working in Saudi Arabia without an Iqama is illegal and can result in serious consequences: you may be asked to pay a fine of up to SAR 10,000 and can also face arrest and deportation.

Special privilege Iqama

As you read more about the Iqama application process, you may come across the term “special privilege Iqama”. The Special Privilege Iqama Law allows exceptionally qualified foreigners to live and work in the Kingdom while enjoying a number of additional privileges like an easy road to owning real estate, renting out properties, etc. To apply for a permanent Iqama, your employer will need to pay upwards of SAR 800, 000. A temporary one-year Iqama will cost around SAR 100,000.

Good to know:

If you plan to work in Saudi Arabia for a shorter term, you can apply for a business visa or a work visit visa — the application process for these is much easier.

On a business visa, you can conduct business transactions with a Saudi company.

On a work visit visa, you can come to Saudi Arabia as an employee of a foreign company and stay in the country for 30 to 90 days.

A typical working day in Riyadh

Your working day in Riyadh will most likely start at 8 am on a Sunday and conclude at 6 pm on a Thursday. Fridays and Saturdays are official days off. Naturally, your working hours may fluctuate and be guided by the specifics of your occupation. However, 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.

In most companies, you will get 21 days of paid leave — which will go up to 30 days after five years of employment. There are also three public holidays in the country during which most companies and institutions don't work:

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

Workers' rights in Saudi Arabia

Most expats who move to Saudi Arabia do so for work. This shifts the general focus in the expat community towards working hard and saving more — and this idea is also enforced by Saudi Arabian working culture.

Overtime here is very common in Saudi Arabia. In fact, you may discover that you are considered to be “on call” way past your working hours. You may also find it very difficult to negotiate flexible working hours or remote working options in Riyadh.

Another thing to take into account is that foreign workers' rights violations are also not uncommon in the country. This is especially true of manual labor. This is propagated by the fact that there are no trade or labor unions in the country. This makes solving work-related disputes and protecting workers' rights even more complicated. Additionally, some companies still practice the confiscation of passports for their foreign employees when they arrive in the country.

Work etiquette in Saudi Arabia

Navigating the local workplace can be quite challenging for a newcomer — even in a city like Riyadh. While the country is more open than ever to outside influence and business practices are being modernized, a lot of workplace interactions are still guided by tradition and there are a number of potential faux-pas to watch out for.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Saudi Arabia is a highly hierarchical society — and the modern workplace is not an exception. This means that you should follow and not discuss the decisions and instructions of your superiors — especially as a new hire in the company. Major decisions are almost always made by a select group of people and behind closed doors and all-office brainstorming sessions are incredibly rare.

As a new employee, you will generally not be expected to be proactive but rather to tend to your specific responsibilities. Note that questioning management decisions and debating your superiors is not a favorable communication strategy.

As many companies in Saudi Arabia are run as family businesses, you need to be aware that your promotion opportunities may be quite limited as nepotism has a stronghold in many local workplaces.

Networking is an essential component of career success in Saudi Arabia. Meeting the right people in your line of work can introduce you to new opportunities and propel your professional success. It is, thus, a good idea to attend business forums, professional conferences and other events in Riyadh related to your industry.

Women in the workplace

Saudi Vision 2030 includes initiatives that encourage women to play a larger role in Saudi Arabia's economy. As a result, by 2020, almost one in four employees in the country were women. By 2030, this number is expected to increase by 30%.

However, prior to the new initiatives, the situation in the country was quite different and the role of women in the workplace was very restricted.

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.


It is important to note that with new Saudization policies being put in place, some jobs once open to foreigners have now been limited to Saudi nationals only.

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.