From hot weather to new languages, expats relocating to Saudi Arabia have many changes and cultural customs to adjust to. Research and preparation before you begin your relocation will help make your journey as smooth and stress free as possible.
Permanent Residency Visas (MUQEEM)
Non GCC nationals entering Saudi Arabia are required to obtain a visa before entering the country. The process for acquiring a visa has multiple steps and may vary depending on your nationality and job title. Expats moving to Saudi for employment require an attested degree or qualification matching the job offer letter from the employer, and a medical exam in the country of residence as well as upon arrival in Saudi.
Expatriates are able to sponsor their family’s move to Saudi Arabia once they have obtained a valid Iqama, job title, and proved the minimum salary requirements. For male expats, their wives and children are able to move to the Kingdom under their sponsorship. The requirements to sponsor children are; males have to be under 18 years of age, and females must be unmarried. Children require a residency visa in order to enroll in a school.
The process of opening a bank account in Saudi Arabia will require you to visit the bank in person, and fill out an application form. The documents usually required are an employer reference letter, often referred to as a No Objectification Certificate (NOC) that clearly states your salary, your original and a copy of your passport, your residence permit (also known as Muqeem), proof of address, typically a tenancy agreement and some banks may require ID photos.
The type of bank account you are able to open will depend on the bank you choose to use and the amount deposited each month. Ensure that you do your due diligence when researching banks. Consider things like, if you want to make international bank transfers, whether you want to use a foreign or local bank, branch availability near where you live or work and easy cash withdrawals, as cash is commonly used in Saudi Arabia.
For expats, the preferred choice for education are international schools, offering familiar curriculums and taught in their own countries language. These schools fill up quickly, so it’s advised to apply for schooling as soon as possible. Children are able to obtain schooling in Saudi once they have received their residency visa.
Some international schools in Riyadh include:
- American International School of Riyadh (IB diploma)
- British International School of Riyadh
- Deutsche Schule Riyadh
- École Française de Riyadh
- Indian International School Riyadh
- Japanese School Riyadh
- New Middle East International School
- Pakistan International School Riyadh
- Second Philippine International School Riyadh
- Svenska Skolan Riyadh
School tuition can cost anywhere between 30,000 and 90,000 SAR per year, depending on the age of the child and school.
There are extensive housing options for those living in Saudi, whether you are a single male, single female, or a family. Families usually live in compounds often with other families from the same company or country that they are from and as such the compounds have a community feel to them.
The compounds are safe and secure communities and usually contain shops, restaurants, pools and other leisure activities along with the residential properties. As such they can be more expensive than other housing options. A shuttle service is often offered within the compound, making it easier for women to travel around.
Expats usually rent property directly from a landlord, and rent is generally collected upfront for the entire year. Some employers offer the cost of rent as part of your package or some provide the payment and deduct from your salary periodically, but if it is not in your employment contract, then you will need to cover the cost yourself. Some research before you move will give you an idea of costs and areas, if this is something you require support in then please contact the Proven team.
All companies offer a healthcare plan for expats and their dependents as a part of their employment contract. It is important to examine the healthcare plan to know the services that are offered. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, ensure that your plan covers the required medical assistance. If your plan does not cover the extras you need, research taking out supplementary coverage. You can find international insurance companies to compare price for age, gender, dependents and current health status.
For those moving to Saudi from climates that are much cooler, it is essential to remain hydrated, especially during the summer months and avoid excessive exposure to the midday sun.
Transport in Saudi Arabia consists mostly of taxis, personal drivers and private vehicles. Women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia, so the best option for them is to take a taxi, or hire a private driver.
Male expats can purchase a car or hire a car on a short or long term lease. For male expats, they are able to use an International Driving Permit, or an overseas license for up to 12 months, then the license must be transferred to a Saudi driving license. Saudi Arabia has a foreign license exchange agreement with certain countries, making it a simple process to transfer to a Saudi license, with your original license, two copies of your license, your official translated copy in Arabic and your Muqeem ID. However, those holding licenses from countries that are not a part of this agreement will face a more complex process.
When driving, it is important to carry your legal documents with you at all times. The documents that you need are your Muqeem ID card, driver’s license, vehicle insurance, vehicle ownership and vehicle registration. This is in case you are ever stopped by police or are in an accident, as all car accidents must be reported to the police.
Average housing and utilities expenses
According to the Saudi Arabian General Authority for Statistics (SAGAS), the cost of living, food and beverage, housing and other related items has remained stable within 2017, with no more than a 0.3% change in any sector.
In April 2017, the cost of living index was 136.8, according to the SAGAS, when compared to 2015, there was a 3.9 point increase. In the Kingdom, the cost of most goods and services are cheaper, when compared to Europe, according to Mercer 2016.
In June 2016, Riyadh was ranked the 57th most expensive city in the world. Expenses such as petrol, are very low in the Kingdom. For most expats, the biggest expense is accommodation, and that can range depending on the type of housing. However, cars and transport are relatively inexpensive compared to many Western countries.
There are many ways to meet new people once you’ve moved to Saudi. Some places to make new friends is through work, through your business council or national country council, as they usually hold events. You can also join meetups and find new friends online with sites like Meetup and InterNations. Another great way to find out what is happening socially is through blogs that are written by other expats in your city, such as ExpatWoman (KSA).
Expats moving to Saudi Arabia face many new challenges, so being prepared ahead of time will make the transition a lot smoother. If you require assistance or support in your move to Saudi, Proven provides a number of services to help you get settled in: Muqeem, home search, school search, cultural transition and even Arabic lessons.
Contact us to support you in successfully relocating to Saudi Arabia, or visa and immigration support, contact Proven on +966 11 411 1127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.