- Who needs a Visa?
- Business Visa
- Work Authorisation
- Penalties for Non Compliance
- Points to Note
Who needs a visa?
All nationals require Visas to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, unless the traveller is a national who is exempt by treaty or other reciprocal agreement. Generally speaking, nationals of the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) do not require Visas to enter Saudi Arabia. Please contact the Global Immigration team for further advice.
Business Visas are issued to visitors travelling to Saudi Arabia for a short-term trip, to conduct business activities including attending business meetings, discussions or conferences.
Type of Visa
Business visitors to Saudi Arabia tend to use the Business Visitor Visa, or the Commercial Visit Visa.
All applications will need to be submitted in the applicant’s country of residence. In order to apply for a Business Visa or a Commercial Visit Visa, the applicant must submit, amongst other items, an official invitation letter which is obtained from the sponsor or host organisation in Saudi Arabia, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia.
Processing times for Business Visas and Commercial Visit Visas do vary from one Consular post to another. For applications filed in the UK, the general processing time is 4 working days.
A business visa can be granted for either single, double, or multiple entries, valid between 1 and 6 months.
However, the applicant may only be granted a length of stay of between 14 to 30 days per visit.
There are several different Work Authorisation categories, mainly the following:
- Work Visit Visa – this is generally required for applicants travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform short term technical activities.
- Temporary Work Visa.
- Employment Visa.
Type of Visa
The most common type of Work Authorisation is the Employment Visa. Details of the application process for this favoured category can be found below.
The following process generally applies:
- Block Visa – the sponsoring or host company needs to apply to the relevant Government Relations Officer (GRO) for a Block Visa request from the Ministry of Labour. In short, the sponsoring or host company in Saudi Arabia is required to obtain pre-approval to sponsor a foreign national.
- Visa Authorisation – upon approval of the Block Visa, the company in Saudi Arabia must then, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia, obtain a Visa Authorisation number and Power of Attorney.
- Work Visa – at this point, the employee may then apply for the Work Visa in their country of residence, at the appropriate Saudi Diplomatic Mission. In order to apply for a Work Visa, the applicant must produce a medical certificate obtained following a medical check up.
- Once the Work Visa has been approved and the employee has arrived in Saudi Arabia, they are likely to need to undergo a second medical check up.
- Within 90 days of arrival, the employee, using an authorised person, must submit an application for a Work Permit and a Residence Permit (Iqama). These applications are made to the Ministry of Labour.
- Finally, once the Work Permit and Iqama have been issued, the employee will then need to apply for an Exit/Re-entry permit via the Ministry of Interior. This permit will allow the employee to exit and re-enter Saudi Arabia during the validity of their Work Permit.
Processing times for the Block Visa and Visa Authorisation do vary, and generally they can take several weeks to obtain.
Applications for Work Visas submitted in the UK generally take 4 working days to process.
Significant time will also be needed in order to gather the documents required from all parties to apply for all steps of the process.
Medical checks will depend upon the physician carrying out the check, but should be obtainable within 3 working days.
The Work Permit and Iqama generally take 3 to 10 working days to process.
It is possible to obtain an Exit/Re-entry Permit in 2 working days.
The Work Visa is often valid for a period of 90 days, whereas the Work Permit and Long Term Visa (Iqama) can be valid for a period of 1 to 2 years.
Foreign employees in Saudi Arabia generally do not have their dependants with them. Decisions in relation to the presence of family members are often determined by the regulations relating to their Iqama or Work Permit.
An employee’s job title can also affect the ability for family members to join the employee in Saudi Arabia. For those eligible to accompany their spouse, the most common categories of Visa applied for, are the Family Visit Visa or Residence Visa.
Penalties for Non Compliance
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia places a strong focus on non compliance. Those who have overstayed their permission to remain in Saudi Arabia should expect to receive a severe penalty and a travel ban to Saudi Arabia for a period of time. Organisations who do not comply with immigration regulations can face substantial fines.
Should a Saudi Arabian employer of foreign nationals be found to be in breach of their obligations under immigration law, or should a foreign national employee be found to be in breach of immigration law, the employer can be fined.
Possible violations include failure to obtain and retain required documentation, discrepancies between the employment stated in the Work Permit and Work Visa Application and the actual role being undertaken by the foreign national employee in Saudi Arabia, as well as failure to obtain a valid Work Permit.
A foreign national employee found in breach of Saudi immigration law is likely to receive a deportation order, fines and possible imprisonment.
Points to Note
- A Work Permit applicant will need to show proof of relevant specific educational qualifications.
- Pre-approval to sponsor a foreign employee is required.
- Several original and official documents are required by the sponsoring or host company in Saudi Arabia, which need to be certified by the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Many personal certificates will need to be certified, notarised and further legalised for use in Saudi Arabia.
- The employee will be required to undergo a medical with a licensed physician.
- A Police Report will be required, issued within the last 6 months.
The contents of this article are for information purposes only. The information and opinions expressed in this document do not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for legal advice or a comprehensive statement of law or current practice. Immigration rules and requirements frequently change without notice. You should not rely upon the contents of this document but instead should seek appropriate professional and legal advice in the light of your personal circumstances. No liability is accepted for the opinions contained or for any errors or commissions. Please contact our Global Immigration Team for further information.