The immigration process in Saudi Arabia can be complex for companies hiring expats. There are different considerations to keep in mind when deciding on the method most suitable, such as the company’s Saudization rating, the company’s industry and employee forecasting. However, for most companies, the block visa is a suitable option for those wanting to hire multiple expats.

Companies planning to hire expats on a long-term basis require authorisation from the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD). The MLSD issues companies block visas which allows them a quota of foreign expats they can hire. In this article we break down the process of block visas, the processing timeline and the validity.

What is the application process?

The process for applying for a block visa is as follows:

  • The sponsoring company must apply for a block visa request to a government relations officer (GRO) from the MLSD as the sponsoring company requires pre-approval to sponsor a foreign national.
  • Once the block visa has been approved, the company must, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Saudi Arabia, obtain a visa authorisation number and a power of attorney.
  • Now, the individual can apply for a work visa in their country of residence through the appropriate Saudi Diplomatic Mission. The applicant is required to supply a medical certificate from a medical check-up in their home country.
  • Once the work visa has been approved and the employee has entered Saudi Arabia, they may be required to take another medical check-up.
  • Within the first 90 days of arrival in the Kingdom, the employee is required to submit an application for a work permit and residence permit (Iqama) to the MoL.
  • 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, allowing them to exit and re-enter the country during the validity of their work permit.

Processing time

The processing time for a block visa and visa authorisation vary, but generally take several weeks to obtain.

Companies need to factor in additional time to gather all the required documents from the concerned parties to be able to complete the application process.

The medical check-up certificate should be available within three days, depending on the physician.

The medical insurance should be available within five days, depending on the insurance company.

The work permit and Iqama generally take three to ten working days to process and the exit/re-entry permit is usually obtainable within two working days. 

Validity

The work entry visa is valid for 90 days. The work permit and the Iqama is valid for one year

The block visa is valid for the one year before the company will have to apply for a new one.