Want to hire employees in Saudi Arabia?

Standing as one of the world’s largest labor markets, the country is hosting around 11 million foreign workers from over 100 nations who carry out activities in a wide range of industries.

All of these workers play a significant role in the Kingdom’s economy.

For this reason, Saudi Arabia has recently eased visa procedures and rules, attracting even more foreign employees and businesses.

In this guide, we navigate the Saudi Arabia work visa application process, outlining the required steps to enhance the efficiency of recruiting and hiring international talent in the country.


How to Hire Employees in Saudi Arabia: 5 Essential Steps


When hiring foreign employees in Saudi Arabia, you must ensure you comply with the country’s labor law.

That’s why it’s important to review the Saudization (Nitaqat) requirements and determine whether you are eligible for hiring foreign nationals.

Nitaqat is a program that requires Saudi companies to meet specific workforce quotas with Saudi nationals.

If your company meets the criteria for employing foreign workers, follow the steps below to ensure full compliance with all the necessary requisites for hiring such workers.


Step 1: Sign a Work Contract


Before a foreign national can legally enter and work in Saudi Arabia, they must receive a job offer and sponsorship from a local company.

As an employer, it is extremely important to do your due diligence before presenting a written job offer to ensure you hire the right employees for your company.

The employment contract signed by you and your prospective employee will be used as the basis for a work visa and residence permit (Iqama) application.

The contract must include the following key elements:

  • Employer’s name
  • Work location
  • Job title
  • Contract duration
  • Probationary period
  • Wage
  • Working hours
  • Overtime regulations
  • Weekly rest
  • Accommodation and transportation
  • Provision of food or food allowance
  • Coverage of medical expenses
  • Fees for residence permit, exit/re-entry visa, etc.
  • Leave period and leave pay
  • Termination of contract
  • End-of-service benefits
  • Contract renewal
  • Repatriation of remains in case of death
  • Dispute resolution
  • Any other relevant terms


According to the Saudi labor law, the language of the contract must be Arabic.

If you draft the contract in a foreign language alongside Arabic, the Arabic version takes precedence in the event of a dispute.

That’s why it’s important to create the contract in both Arabic and English (if your prospective employee is not a native speaker of Arabic) and ensure that the content is consistent across both versions.

You must also ensure that the contract is approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Chamber of Commerce.

Please be aware that starting from May 2022, Saudi employers must use the online Qiwa platform for the approval of work contracts.


Step 2: Apply for a Block Visa


A block visa (or visa authorization) serves as the primary prerequisite by which local companies can hire foreign employees in Saudi Arabia.

It can include multiple visa applications. This allows employers to bring one or more foreign workers to the Kingdom based on the quotas issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD).

Do note that the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) has reverted the decision made in 2017 to shorten the validity period of block visas from two years to one year.

As a result, companies now have a span of two years again to finalize the procedures for recruiting foreign employees.

Additionally, the competent authorities have suspended the requirement for companies to advertise open positions on the Taqat job portal before applying for a block visa.

This means that instead of conducting a labor market test, you can submit a block visa application directly. The elimination of labor market testing has significantly reduced the time it takes for businesses to obtain a block visa approval.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Saudi Arabia issues block visas based on the worker’s nationality and professional qualifications.

For information about the requirements and the submission of a block visa application, please refer to the following link: https://www.mofa.gov.sa/en/eservices/Pages/svc4.aspx.

Typically, it takes as little as 7-10 business days to get an answer on a block visa application.


Step 3: Obtain a Power of Attorney


Once the MOFA has approved your block visa request, it will issue an electronic power of attorney (Tawfeed).

This document helps you link your prospective employee(s) with the block visa for which you have obtained authorization.

Together with the power of attorney, you will also get a visa authorization number that enables your prospective employee to submit a work visa application to the relevant Saudi Diplomatic Mission.

Do note that the power of attorney issued by the MOFA is different from a standard power of attorney which is a written authorization to act on behalf of someone else.

Upon receiving the power of attorney, you must provide your prospective employee with a copy of the document. Additionally, you must provide them with a copy of the company’s business registration certificate and the block visa.

Next, the employee can utilize these documents to start the visa application process.


Step 4: Your Future Employee Applies for a Saudi Arabia Work Visa


Your future employee must apply for a Saudi Arabia work visa at the competent Saudi Embassy or Consulate located in their country of residence.

Alternatively, the application process can be completed through an authorized travel agency.

While this is not an exhaustive list, in the majority of cases, they will need to submit the following documents:

  • Original passport valid for at least 6 months with at least two blank pages


  • At least two passport-size photographs



  • Power of attorney from the MOFA


  • Visa authorization number


  • Copy of block visa


  • Employment contract


  • Letter of sponsorship from the employer



  • Certified and notarized copies of professional diplomas


  • Medical report issued by a licensed physician stating that the applicant does not suffer from any contagious diseases (not older than 3 months)


  • Proof of clean criminal record


In case the applicant holds residency in any Gulf country, the Saudi Embassy might ask them to terminate that residency before granting them a work visa.

The processing time for a Saudi Arabia work visa may vary based on a number of factors, such as the applicant’s citizenship and personal situation.

However, in most cases, Saudi Embassies issue the work visa in 1-3 weeks.

After getting their passport with the work visa affixed to it, the applicant can legally enter Saudi Arabia.

Next, it is your responsibility as an employer to submit an application for an Iqama residence visa on behalf of the employee.


Step 5: Apply for an Iqama Residence Visa


Within 90 days of entering Saudi Arabia, you must initiate the process for an Iqama residence visa (or residence permit).

This serves as proof of the worker’s legal status in the country.

Without an Iqama, your employee won’t be able to operate a bank account, get a SIM card, send money internationally, etc.

The application can be submitted online through the Absher platform, an electronic platform provided by the Ministry of Interior.

Typically, the Iqama visa is valid for one year with the possibility of renewal.

Currently, the cost to issue or renew an Iqama is 650 Saudi Riyals (SAR).

For information on how to proceed with an Iqama application and to learn about the prerequisites, please refer to https://www.my.gov.sa/wps/portal/snp/servicesDirectory/servicedetails/rs3361.

Do note that your employee may need to take another medical check-up after entering the country.


Hiring Employees in Saudi Arabia: Final Considerations


Despite the Government’s efforts to simplify the visa application regulations, employing foreign workers in Saudi Arabia can still be complex and time-consuming.

As a result, it may be difficult to prepare properly so you can comply with Saudi labor law.

However, armed with accurate and comprehensive information (like the one provided in this article), you can streamline the procedure and efficiently hire the right employees in your company.

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