Tuesday 27, June 2017 by Jessica Combes

Relocating to Saudi Arabia


A number of international firms, such as McDermott, are expanding their operations into Saudi Arabia this year.

PROVEN Saudi Arabia, the leading business support service provider for the KSA, brings clarity on what is needed for those who are making a move to the Kingdom this summer. As a Saudi-based company with operations in the UAE and the UK, Proven SA supports businesses and individuals to navigate entry into the Kingdom. Proven SA offers assistance with visas, PRO services, business set up, HR outsourcing, and relocation.  
br /> Permanent Residency Visas (Also known as the Iqama or 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 can vary depending on nationality and job title. Expats moving to Saudi for employment require an attested degree or qualification matching the job offer letter from their employer, and a medical exam in their country of residence as well as upon arrival in Saudi.  

Family visa
Expatriates can 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 family can move to the Kingdom under their sponsorship. To sponsor children, males must be under 18 years of age, and females must be unmarried. All children require a residency visa to enrol in a school.  

The process of opening a bank account in Saudi Arabia requires a visit to the bank in person to fill out an application form. The type of bank account depends on the bank chosen and the amount deposited each month. The documents usually required are as follows: employer reference letter; No Objectification Certificate (NOC), stating the salary; original passport and a copy; residence permit (also known as Muqeem or Iqama); proof of address, typically a tenancy agreement; and some banks may require ID photos.

Saudi Arabia has a variety of highly regarded international schools that are preferred by expats, as they offer familiar curriculums and taught in their national language. Schools fill up quickly; therefore it is advised to apply for schooling as soon as possible. Children can obtain schooling in Saudi once they have received their residency visa. School tuition can cost anywhere between SAR 30,000 and SAR 90,000 per year, depending on the age of the child and school. Some leading 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; and Svenska Skolan Riyadh.

There are extensive housing options available for those living in Saudi, whether relocating as an individual or with a family. Compounds are the common choice chosen by families often with other families from the same company or country that they are from and as such, 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. A shuttle service is often offered within the compound, making it easier for women to travel around. Due to the amenities on offer, compounds can be more expensive than other housing options and less readily available.

Expats usually rent property directly from a landlord, and rent is generally collected upfront for the entire year. Companies may offer housing allowance as part of the package to their employees or they may provide the payment and deduct directly from the salary periodically, this will be specified in the employment contract and is not mandatory. Proven SA can provide insight into the area that best suits the individual.

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.  

Saudi Arabia relies heavily on taxis, personal drivers and private vehicles. The best option for women is to take a taxi or hire a private driver, as women cannot currently obtain a driving licence in Saudi Arabia. Male expats can purchase a car or hire a car on a short or long term lease. For male expats, they can use an International Driving Permit, or an overseas licence for up to 12 months, then the licence must be transferred to a Saudi driving licence. Saudi Arabia has a foreign licence exchange agreement with certain countries such as the UK, France and Germany, making it a simple process to transfer to a Saudi licence. When driving, it is important to carry all legal documents at all times. The documents required are a Muqeem ID card, driver’s licence, vehicle insurance, vehicle ownership, and vehicle registration. 

For those transferring a licence from an approved country, the following documentation is required: original licence; two copies of the driving licence; official translated copy of their driving licence in Arabic; and Muqeem ID. However, those holding licences from countries that are not a part of this agreement will face a more complex process. 

There are many ways to meet new people in Saudi, such as work colleagues, through business council’s or national country councils, who hold a regular calendar of events. Online there are many groups available for expats who are relocating, such as Meetup and InterNations or through several blogs that are written by other expats in the Kingdom, such as ExpatWoman (KSA).

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. 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 per cent 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 and the UAE, according to Mercer 2016. 

Proven SA can assist Expats who are looking to move to Saudi Arabia with a number of services to help them get settled, such as their Muqeem, home search, school search, cultural transition, and Arabic and cultural lessons.


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