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Iqama in Saudi Arabia – Extensive Guide and Application Procedure


Key Takeaways

1. Iqama is an official ID document issued by the Saudi government. It is tied to  a sponsor (employer), and acts as a residency card in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)

2. The application process for iqama is long and complicated; foreign employees can only have work visas that last 1 year (renewable).

3. It is possible to get a family iqama for any dependents you or your employees might have.

4. Horizons PEO can help hire local and foreign employees in Saudi Arabia and in more than 180 other countries worldwide.

Saudi Arabia has long provided attractive incentives to foreign investors, which has resulted in the vast majority of inhabitants being foreign nationals. In fact, 78% of employed individuals in Saudi Arabia are foreign hires. Iqamas helps to manage these foreign hires in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Here is what you need to know about the Saudi Arabia iqama.

Definition: What is an Iqama in Saudi Arabia?

An iqama is a residence permit that the Saudi Arabian government issues to eligible foreign hires who arrive in the country on an employment visa.


Example of Iqama in Saudi Arabia

Purpose of Saudi Arabia Iqama

The Saudi Arabian government has strict guidelines regarding immigration and labor policies. A local employer must act as a sponsor and apply for the iqama and work permit on behalf of the worker. This helps support the role of the foreigner and gives credibility to him or her since a local employer is vouching for the applicant.

Hire in Saudi Arabia in 24 hours with Horizons EOR services.

How to Apply for a Saudi Arabia Iqama

The application process for a Saudi Arabia iqama is often long and arduous.

Apply for Block Visa

The sponsoring employer has to first apply for and receive Block Visa approval from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development. These are quotas that the Ministry of Labor and Social Development issues that allow local employers to sponsor foreign hires for the purpose of long-term work. They are granted based on various factors, including:

  • The applicant’s nationality
  • The applicant’s country of origin
  • The precise job role

Visa Authorization and Power of Attorney

Once approval is obtained, the sponsoring employer must then request the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to provide a visa authorization number and power of attorney, which let the employer apply for a work visa on the workers’ behalf.

Work Visa Application

Next, the employer submits an application for a work visa. The employee must undergo a medical exam and provide a medical certificate that accompanies the application.

Enter and Start Working in Saudi Arabia

Once the employee’s work visa is approved, he or she can enter Saudi Arabia and begin working for the sponsor.

Work Permit and Iqama Application

However, an application for a work permit and iqama must be submitted to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development within 90 days of the worker’s arrival. Additionally, if the employee will need to leave the country at any time during the period of their iqama, they will need to obtain an exit and re-entry permit from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.

Duration of Work Visa and Iqama

Saudi Arabian law dictates that foreign hires only be employed for a fixed term that is based on their iqama and work permit. Private sector employees can only have a work visa that lasts for one year, but it may be possible to renew it to extend the duration.

Fees for the Saudi Arabia Iqama

The local employer is responsible for all fees involved in obtaining the iqama and work permit. Additionally, the employer can be required to pay repatriation ticket fees if the sponsored employee stops working for the company.

The Saudi Arabian government imposes an expat levy on foreign residents, but the law does not specify whether the worker or employer should pay this fee, so this is up to the individual contract terms. As of July 1, 2020, the expat levy is SAR 800 per month, per worker and SAR 400 per month, per dependent. This fee may be motivated by the Saudi Vision 2030 plan, which seeks to diversify the country’s economy, support smaller businesses, and develop opportunities for locals.

Video: Procedure to Get Family Iqama for Dependents

How Horizons Can Help

Horizons offers extensive services to help foreign businesses make their expansion to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other countries a success. We can assist with all aspects of the process to obtain a Block Visa, work permit, and Saudi Arabian iqama.

In addition to assisting you with the time-consuming and complex immigration process, we also provide a host of business solutions to help you with all aspects of your expansion, including PEO and Employer of Record, payroll outsourcing, and company registration.

If you are not yet ready to set up a separate entity in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our flexible business solutions allow you to launch a local workforce without having to commit to the investment and use of resources of establishing a separate entity. This allows you to test the market and see how your business is received before moving forward.

Learn more about Horizons and how we can help by contacting us online.

Frequently asked questions

Iqama is an official identification document issued by the Saudi government. This document proves that you are legally employed.

You can check your Iqama status on the official Saudi website.

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