Thursday, May 31, 2007

Types of visas

This perhaps is one of the most important things you should be aware of before you come to the kingdom. Every work visa is associated with a profession, eg., doctor, engineer, nurse, teacher, carpenter, etc. You must be absolutely sure about your job title mentioned in your visa. It will be in Arabic, so you will have to get the help of someone who knows Arabic fluently to know its "exact" meaning. Confused? :-/ Read on. Every sponsor is given some visas by the Saudi government. Unfortunately, the profession or the trade mentioned in the visa need not necessarily be the job you are supposed to do, though officially this is not the case. In 9 out of 10 cases, the sponsor just grabs whatever visa is available and brings expats into the kingdom on that particular visa. For example, let's say a sponsor has a visa for a plumber. However, he may not be needing a plumber but rather an engineer. Since he was given only a plumber visa by the government, he would try to bring the expat on whatever visa is available. However, the catch is that the expat coming into the kingdom, blissfully unaware of this, will be in deep trouble when he wants to bring his family. Only certain trades can bring their familieis. The Saudi government has decided that only those who can afford to bring their families should do so (which is right to a certain extent). Hence, a labourer / helper will not be eligible to bring his family, nor can he obtain a multiple exit/reentry visa (more about this later) for weekend trips to Bahrain. So, if an engineer comes to Saudi on a helper visa, it is impossible for him to bring his family, because on paper he is still a helper, no matter what his qualification or experience is :( There was this classic case of the principal of the Indian school, a Phd and with 25 years experience. Unfortunately, he could not bring his family to the kingdom as he was on a painter visa. Since on record he was a painter hence was not eligible to bring his family. Despite moving pillar to post, he was unsuccessful in getting his profession changed and finally had to quit his job in utter frustration and go back to his home country :((

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Your contract

Before you accept any job in Saudi Arabia, the fundamental thing is to read the contract very carefully. You must be absolutely clear who your sponsor is. Remember, one cannot work or even enter Saudi Arabia without a sponsor. A sponsor has to necessarily be a Saudi citizen who should have taken prior permission from his government to bring an expatriate for work inside the kingdom. The sponsor could be either an individual or a company. Knowing the background of your sponsor could save you from a lot of trouble, but if you do not have this information, you have to dig in a bit deeper.

Be absolutely sure that you would be working only for your sponsor. There are also cases of people coming in under a person's sponsorship by paying him a certain sum of money and then once inside the kingdom working for someone else. This is called "free-visa" in expat jargon, (i.e., once inside KSA you are "free" to work wherever you like) and if you are planning to do this, you are really asking for trouble. Please desist from any such moves.

Read and re-read your contract several times. This is the only document which is going to protect you. Now answer this simple questionnaire:

1. Are you going to pay for your air tickets to go to the kingdom?

2. Are you going to pay for your exit / reentry visa and iqama charges?

3. Are you going to bear all your medical expenses in the kingdom?

4. Is it clearly mentioned in your contract about your vacation (once a year, once in two years, etc.)

5. Is your local agent in your home country reputable? (Watch this blog for further information, if you are not so sure)

6. Has your compensation been clearly mentioned giving all the break-up (Basic, transportation, housing, education for the kids, medical, dental, paid vacation, etc.)

If your answer to any of the above questions is "No", then my friend, you better step back. Remember, your contract decides your future in the kingdom, so do not leave any scope for ambiguity. Get everything in WRITING, this is very important. DO NOT GO BY VERBAL ASSURANCES.


Congratulations! You have an offer for a job in Saudi Arabia but are quite confused whether to accept it or not. Your mind is full of doubts about the location, culture, weather, work atmosphere, local population, and so on and so forth. The picture here aptly describes your mindset - is it a sunrise or a moonset - you aren't too sure! You are in a Catch 22 situation - "Should I go in for the plunge or not"! You are looking for someone who can guide you, atleast through the basics. Not to worry, you have come to the right place!
This blog doesn't claim to be an authority in Saudi Arabia. Nor is it even remotely connected with any official agency. With a decade of experience of working in Saudi Arabia as an expatriate, the intention of this blog author is just to make the first-timers more familiar with the working conditions in the Kingdom. If in any way this blog has helped the would-be expatriates, then the purpose of this blog is achieved.
Your feedback in the form of comments and backlinks would encourage me to post more articles. Also, do feel free to correct me, if you feel any information provided is not accurate enough. Happy surfing!