For companies expanding into Saudi Arabia, many view corporate immigration as a complex and lengthy process. Often these companies do not have the local knowledge to plan timelines and budgets or have the right team in place that speak the language.

As foreign investment to the Kingdom increases, the Saudi government has looked to making the process less daunting with the introduction of online portals and changes to business legislation. It is still as important to remain compliant and due diligence should be completed whether you are managing corporate immigration in house or outsourcing to a Saudi partner to ensure this.

This article is an overview on corporate immigration and some of the most commonly asked questions.

What is the government’s policy towards corporate immigration?

The Saudi government has encouraged foreign investment in the Kingdom. Aligned with Vision 2030, the government has made numerous reforms to create an environment that is attractive for foreign investors and that is mutually beneficial to both businesses and the economy.

The Saudi government continues to develop laws and regulations to create an easier and more attractive market for companies to enter, shown through the introduction reforms such as new bankruptcy laws and the privatization plan.

The government continues to work to increase the amount of foreign direct investors in the Kingdom and improve their experience. There have been a number of online portals introduced to speed up processes that were previously completed in person, for example, an investment license that is now available in as little as 4 hours up to a few days, which would have previously taken weeks to process and multiple visits to different government departments.

What are the main work and business permits used to transfer employees?

The option available for those working long term in the Kingdom is the work permit and Iqama, both are needed and enable the resident to do different things. The work permit is so you can legally work in the Kingdom and the Iqama is for you to be able to rent a house, open a bank account, put your children in education and other personal actions.

Employees enter the Kingdom under a work entry permit and will be granted a final work permit and Iqama once they have completed the in-country requirements. The work entry has a duration of stay of 90 days and users are unable to leave the country or work until they have obtained their final work permit and Iqama.

How long does it take to process the visas?

Processing times for visas vary, depending on the industry of work permit, the country of application, the nationality of the applicant and if there are dependents.

If your company is applying from a block visa, this can take two to six weeks before it is processed depending on the size of the request, the type of visa and the Saudization rating of the company.

Once the individual has entered the country under a work visa, it may take one to two to three weeks to obtain a work permit and Iqama assuming all relevant documentation is current and has gone through the required procedures such as notarisation or attestation. However, if your profession requires extra accreditation, such as engineers or accountants, then it may take an additional two to three weeks.

Can an assignee enter the Kingdom on a commercial/tourist visa?

Holders of commercial and tourist visas are strictly prohibited from doing work in the Kingdom. Therefore, you must ensure the visa you receive is aligned with your purpose of travel to stay compliant.

For assistance in corporate immigration to Saudi Arabia, contact us on +966 11 411 1127 or