How do you get a VISA in Saudi Arabia?– An Employer's Guide to Hiring Compliantly


Saudi Arabia's economy is thriving and attracting a significant number of foreign worker...

Matt Nicholson

By Matt Nicholson

Saudi Arabia's economy is thriving and attracting a significant number of foreign workers each year. Through Saudization, more local talent is becoming available and trained for critical energy and construction roles. However, many international companies still find a need to place specialised or highly skilled workers on their projects in the country. If you are an employer looking to hire workers from abroad, it is essential to understand the process of organising a worker's visa in Saudi Arabia.

All travellers, except those from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, must have a visa to enter Saudi Arabia. It is crucial to arrange the visa before arrival in the country. Expats intending to work in Saudi Arabia must obtain a work visa. This requires presenting the employment contract, academic or professional credentials, medical exam results, and police clearance to the Saudi embassy or consulate in their home country or the authorities in Saudi Arabia through their sponsor. The visa is typically valid for the duration requested by the sponsor company.

What is best practice when Applying for a visa on behalf of a new worker in Saudi Arabia?


Determine the Visa Category

Before initiating the visa process, you must determine the appropriate visa category for your workers. Saudi Arabia offers different types of visas, including employment visas, business visit visas, and work visit visas. The employment visa is the most common category for foreign workers.

In addition, family visit visas and permanent family visas are required for the families of workers who wish to stay with them, and these employees will also need to consider if their families need work visas of their own to work at the same time.


Obtain Approval from the Ministry of Labor

You must obtain approval from the Ministry of Labor in Saudi Arabia to hire foreign workers. This involves submitting the necessary documents, such as an employment contract, job description, and proof of recruitment efforts to hire local workers. The Ministry will review the application and issue an employment permit if all requirements are met.


Submit Documents to the Saudi Arabian Embassy/Consulate

Once you have received approval from the Ministry of Labor , you must submit the required documents to your country's Saudi Arabian Embassy or Consulate. For example, there is guidance on the website of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia United States for the US. The process of applying for the visa can be done online.

You will need:

  • An original passport valid for no less than six months
  • Digital power of attorney from the Saudi employer, generated by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • A visa referral note containing the visa number and date of issue issued by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • An original letter from the sponsor company based in Saudi Arabia includes the block visa number, date, position, and applicant name. The letter must be certified by both the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If a visa agency is processing the letter, the letter should also authorise the agency to finalise all visa requirements.
  • A copy of the employment contract signed by both the sponsor company and the applicant and certified by the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • They are certified and notarised copies of formal qualifications, such as university degrees and diplomas or training or technical certificates from a training company. A Saudi Arabian Consulate must also notarise diplomas. Different consulates in different countries will likely have different fees where this is applicable.
  • Diplomas not issued in the United States must be certified by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and the Saudi Arabian Embassy in the applicant's country.
  • A medical report in three copies and three passport-sized colour photos on a white background. The medical report must confirm the applicant is free of any contagious diseases.
  • If applicable, a police report should be issued within six months before the application, with detailed information about the applicant's criminal record.

If you work with an Employer of Record they will take care of a lot of this admin for you.

Medical Examination

All foreign workers must undergo a medical examination to obtain a worker's visa. This examination ensures that the worker is fit to work and does not have any contagious diseases. The medical examination usually includes a blood test, X-rays, and other necessary tests. The medical examination results will be submitted along with the other documents to the embassy/consulate.


Employment Visa Stamping

Once the required documents have been submitted and approved by the embassy/consulate, the worker's visa will be stamped on their passport. This process may take some time, so it is important to plan accordingly and keep track of the progress.


Arrange Travel and Accommodation

After the worker's visa has been stamped, you can arrange the worker's travel and accommodation. Ensure that all necessary arrangements, such as flight tickets, accommodation, and transportation, are made well in advance to avoid any last-minute complications.

Some of the most popular places to live or stay in Saudi Arabia in the power and energy industry include Dammam, Al Khobar, and Dharan, as these are located near most of the country's oil companies. Additionally, some expats choose to live in nearby Bahrain as it is a drivable distance to these industrial hubs. Typically, these areas are cheaper on average than Riyadh and closer to the projects where many expatriate energy workers will be based. A further alternative is westernised compounds or villas, which are self-contained and secure townships that are more lenient on cultural rules. Many expats stay at compounds for the additional freedoms they are used to and to give themselves time to learn about Saudi culture.


Inform the Worker about Saudi Arabian Laws and Culture

Before the worker travels to Saudi Arabia, informing them about the country's laws, customs, and culture is crucial. This will help them adapt to the new environment and ensure a smooth transition.

As part of its Vision 2030 program, Saudi Arabia is becoming more progressive in its culture but is still fundamentally a conservative Islamic country with strict laws, particularly around Ramadan. A cultural training programme is recommended for new employees to integrate respectfully. 


Employment and Saudization 

In August 2011, the Saudi government implemented their Vision 2030 programme to transform the Saudi workforce and provide more opportunities for nationals while reducing the need for expatriate workers. The most recent regulations governing expatriate workers and Saudization are in the country's Nitaqat 2.0 program, revised in June 2021. While the newer rules are more lenient on a company's transition and encourage gradual Saudization depending on a company's size, there are still specific rules for Saudization by profession, sector and even region of the country. The Saudization target nationwide for the energy sector is currently 75% by 2030.

This means that the number of expatriates allowed to be national workers varies, and companies seeking to recruit for projects should first ensure they are within these rules. Thankfully, an Employer of Record service can provide this information and guidance.


Employer of Record Services – The Simplest Solution 

Ensuring compliance, efficiency and expert knowledge can be challenging for companies to complete in-house. Instead, many global companies with projects in Saudi Arabia rely on Employer of Record (EOR) services. An EOR offers comprehensive global payroll solutions, employment and tax compliance, HR administration and contractor support. Saudi-based EORs are experts in Nitaqat 2.0, with experience in working with the Ministry of Labour and the visa application process. They will also be able to advise on travel and accommodation based on expertise in placing and managing contractors in the region.

NES Fircroft can be your Employer of Record 

Simplify your global payroll processes and unlock the potential of your international workforce.

NES Fircroft has offices in over 45 countries and has decades of experience in international expansion. We can help you hire employees quickly, compliantly, and with minimal risk.

With NES Fircroft managing your talent, we can resolve your legal entity and employment requirements, ease your payroll burden, manage tax queries and ensure immigration labour law compliance. We are award-winning in compliance and payroll, so your expansion plans are safe.