For expatriates relocating, they have many questions that they need to ask about how to relocate to Saudi Arabia. There are also many misconceptions on living in Saudi, so to address them, we have answered some frequently asked questions for those planning to relocate to the Kingdom.
Living in Saudi
- What language is spoken in Saudi?
Arabic is the official language spoken by the locals. There are many dialects of Arabic spoken throughout the Kingdom. Many locals know English as many of them have studied abroad in Western countries, and are fluent in English and familiar with Western culture.
- What is the climate like in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia has a desert climate. The country has extreme heat during the day and a drop in temperature in the evenings, with a low annual rainfall. There are two main types of climate in Saudi depending on location. There is hot-humid, and hot-dry weather. The difference in these types of climate can be felt between the coastal and the interior parts of Saudi, respectively.
- What kind of visa do I need?
Commercial visit visa is available for business reasons; such as a business meeting, provide a non-technical consultation, negotiations, conferences, exhibitions, trade shows or sales presentations. To obtain this visa, a Letter of Invitation (LOI) is required from a Saudi sponsor or host company in Saudi.
Work visit visa are issued to individuals who are going to the Kingdom for a temporary work assignment. This visa also requires a LOI from the sponsoring company in Saudi and the steps to obtain the visa are more comprehensive as qualifications and other certificates will need to be notarized before a visa can be obtained.
Pre-approved female visit visa are for women with a minimum age of 30 and hold a managerial job title. This visa also requires a LOI before visiting the Kingdom, and is used to conduct business meetings and negotiations. The duration of stay and number of entries is subjected to approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- What kind of visa do I need to work in Saudi?
If you are moving to Saudi for full time employment and to live permanently, you will need a permanent residence visa that is also known as an Iqama or Muqeem. This visa will be supplied by your employer, and will require an attested degree and a clear medical test.
- What documents are required for this visa?
The documents that are required to obtain a visa will be dependent on the type of job that you have obtained. Most cases require:
- Birth certificate
- Passport (valid to a certain date, depending on visa length)
- Attested Degree/Diploma/Certificate
- Letter of invitation/Job offer letter
- Passport photos may be required
- How long are the employment contracts?
The length of your employment contract will depend on the employer and how long you are required for the job. Employment contract length may be negotiable.
- Can I bring my family?
Expatriates are able to bring their families to the Kingdom depending on their job title, salary and if it has been included in the employment contract. This should be dependents of the expatriate including; spouse, children – sons under 18 years and unmarried daughters, parents and in-laws.
- How will I be paid?
Salary is generally paid monthly through a bank deposit.
- Can I open a bank account in Saudi Arabia?
Yes, expatriates are able to open a bank account in Saudi. To open a bank account you will need the following documents:
- a written authorization from your employer (No Objection Certificate) clearly indicating the amount of your salary
- your Iqama (residence permit)
- your lease documents
- a photocopy of your passport
- ID photos (number to be confirmed with the chosen bank)
- a duly filled and signed application form
- What is the professional dress code in Saudi Arabia?
For men working in Saudi Arabia, professional attire is expected. Men should wear a suit and tie, unless the dress code in your work environment is specifically different. Women are expected to wear the traditional attire of an abaya. An abaya is a long robe that is worn over full length clothing. Women are not required to cover their hair, however, they should carry a scarf in case they are asked to by the religious police.
- Do women have to cover their hair?
Women are not required to cover their hair, however, they should carry a scarf with them in case they are required to in certain places.
- What is the standard of dressing for men and women?
Men are able to dress how they usually would. Women are required to wear an abaya, this should be worn over full length pants and a long sleeve top in public places. Abayas are usually not required inside the compound where families live,there women are free to dress as they would in their home countries.
- Where can expats live?
Expatriates going to Saudi have many living options, either their employer will supply accommodation, or they will need to manage it themselves. A compound is a favourable option for most expats, as they are able to experience more of the freedoms they would in their home country than they would outside the compound.
There is usually access to restaurants, shops, pools, leisure centres and more within the compound. Women are not required to wear abayas in the compound, there is freedom to go out and there is security surrounding the compound. If you choose to live outside of a compound, normal Saudi rules apply. Housing options range from apartments to villas, and rent is usually paid upfront on a yearly basis.
- What schooling options are available?
For expat’s children, there are many international schooling options available. These generally carry the British or American schooling curriculum. Admission requirements vary between schools, to clarify, contact the schools directly. Many schools also offer pickup and drop-off school bus service to and from the home.
Relocating to Saudi is a major difference for those coming from a Western country. If you require support in relocating to Saudi, contact the Proven team on +966 11 411 1127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.