Monday, June 25, 2007

Attestation formalitites for Indians seeking Saudi jobs

A lot of friends from India have been asking me for information about the attestation procedure of their certificates before coming to work in Saudi Arabia. This post is intended for them. Working in Saudi Arabia is a challenge and so are the documentation requirements!
A basic requirement for expatriates from India is that their educational certificates have to be attested and endorsed by various agencies, prior to visa stamping. Typically, this would be their degree certificate. This certificate has to be attested by the Ministry of Human Resources as well as the External Affairs Ministry of the Government of India before being endorsed by the Saudi Embassy in India. Please note that you cannot hire an agent to do this job, and the candidates themselves have to be physically present to do it #-o , so outstation candidates have to undergo the hassle of going to New Delhi personally!

HRD Ministry attestation procedure:
  • First, take a postal order for Rs.50 addressed to "Secretary, Department of Secondary Education and Higher Education" payable in New Delhi.
    The Ministry is open only on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays for attestation, so outstation candidates must note this.
  • Please ensure that the Vice Chancellor's signature and seal are very clear in your degree certificate, otherwise it will be rejected by the Ministry. This could be quite inconvenient for outstation candidates.
  • If your degree certificate is laminated, make sure to remove the same, otherwise it will be forcibly torn by the attestation officer and the certificate may be damaged.
  • If your certificate is neither in English nor in Hindi, it must first be translated into English and attestetd by a gazetted officer before being submitted to the HRD Ministry.
  • If your degree or diploma has been issued in the state of Andhra Pradesh, you must first get the same by the General Administration Department of the Government of AP in Hyderabad. Similarly, if your certificate has been issued by Karnataka University, Dharwad, it must first be attested by the registrar of that university before being handed over to HRD Ministry, New Delhi.
  • Take a printout of the application form given here and attach your postal order, original certificate, marksheet of your final year / semester, photocopies of all of the above plus your passport copy.
  • The HRD Ministry opens at 9 am, but to beat the queue, you must reach there before 5.30 am I-) Do not entertain any brokers or agents, it is a waste of your money.
  • Accepted documents are verified and delivered between 3.30 pm to 4.00 pm.

External Affairs Ministry attestation procedure:

It takes around 10 minutes from HRD Ministry to reach the External Affairs Ministry by autorickshaw. The Ministry opens at 9 am. Go to Gate # 2 and submit your original certificates. Delivery will be done within one hour. ;;)

The final step is to take the attested certificates to the Saudi Arabian embassy. You will have to pay the equivalent of 300 Saudi Riyals, which is about Rs.450. You must reach the embassy before 10.30 am to get the delivery at 3.30 pm, otherwise, you will have to wait another day.

That's it! Hope you liked my post. I would appreciate if you could drop in your comments, which is my motivation to write more.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Employment contract in Saudi Arabia

As mentioned in my earlier post, the most important document for any expatriate planning to work in Saudi Arabia is the job contract with his employer. Please be aware that this contract has to be in Arabic for it to be an official document. Usually, the contract is in both Arabia as well as English, but the text contained in Arabic is what is considered legally as final and binding <):)

In some cases, the employer will make you sign an English contract in your home country and follow it up with an Arabic contract as soon as you arrive in the kingdom. This could be a bit tricky, so please ensure that your sponsor is a reputed employer. Also, as I have been repeatedly stressing earlier too, do not go by any verbal assurances. There are scores of instances when people have been promised a salary back home and are paid far lower than what they where promised after they arrived in the kingdom :( There is nothing which you can do about it in such cases, because your passport will be with your sponsor and you will not even be able to get out of the country without his knowledge. In short, you virtually become his slave. Of course, this is not to generalize all Saudi sponsors under the same category - there are good employers too and some of them even go out of their way to help their employees.

The contract for an expatriate worker in Saudi Arabia has to be necessarily for a fixed period of time. Make sure that your probation period mentioned in the contract does not exceed 90 days, as required by Saudi labor law. Please note that sick leave and the public holidays for Eid (just after Ramadan) and Hajj holidays are excluded

If you are looking for working in Saudi Arabia, you must be aware of your rights as a worker. The entire cost of bringing you from the home country, visa processing fees, renewal of work visa and the cost of air tickets back to the home country is the responsibility of the sponsor. Do not sign any contract in which you have to pay for these, because it is your sponsor's responsibility to bear these expenses.

More posts will follow about this and other interesting topics on working in Saudi Arabia. If you liked this information, do write your comments here which will motivate me to write more.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Openings for expatriate women in Saudi Arabia

Working in Saudi Arabia is a challenge, particularly when it comes to working women. Very few professions are open for expatriate women to work legally in this country :( Doctors, (particularly gynaecologists and paediatricians ), nurses and teachers are in great demand. There is always a dearth of qualified and experienced women to cover these professions.

Do remember that Saudi Arabia is a very restricted society and it is quite rare to find women working, except probably as teachers, doctors and nurses. Life could be quite taxing for working women, particularly in the medical and teaching professions. However, it all depends on the individual requirement, as mentioned in my earlier post, how far one is willing to go. All said and done, woman expatriates do get paid reasonably well, depending on their skill set.

Some of the wives of expatriates working in Saudi Arabia do keep themselves occupied though. You can find excellent private tutors for children, translators, etc. However, all these occupations are strictly on one to one basis and purely private arrangements between individuals.

Usually, it is quite rare or rather even impossible to find working women among expatriates who are without their families. The only exception to this is nursing profession. Generally, the husband would also be working in the same city as the wife. Very rarely does the wife get separate sponsorship by her company and most of the time it is the husband who is her sponsor. In all such cases, the working wife must ensure that she bargains well with her employer citing that the processing charges for her visa are borne by her husband. She must also not forget that if her husband is the sponsor, then all expenses like annual tickets to the home country, renewal of work permit (called iqama) etc., are usually borne by the husband only. So, she must keep all this in mind while negotiating her salary with her employer. Make sure everything in the contract is written in black and white and do not sign any document on verbal assurances.

Nurses are usually housed in either the hospital quarters or in private houses. Usually, the hospitals arrange for regular shopping trips to downtown, to enable them to buy their essentials, as women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Did you like my post? If you need further information on any topic, do write your comments in this blog. Your encouragement is my motivation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Security for Western Expatriates in Saudi Arabia

Probably one of the first thoughts which come to the mind of a potential job-seeker is the security situation in Saudi Arabia. This is one of the common concerns of western expatriates who would like to know the real situation before planning to work in Saudi Arabia :-SS
Rest assured that the ground situation is really not that bad, as one would imagine, though one cannot say that it is 100% safe either. True, there was a period, roughly 3 years ago, when all expatriates and westerners in particular were targetted systematically. :-S The situation then was so bad that there was quite an exodus of sorts by expatriates. However, over a period of time, a large number of terrorists have been either killed or arrested by the security personnel.
Most of the western expats prefer to stay in "camps" or "compounds", as they are known here.

Compounds are a colony of villas occupied only by expatriates. After the last attack on western interests in 2003, these compounds have been provided with very heavy security and it is quite difficult for any outsider to enter these highly fortified areas. Cars entering these compounds are thoroughly checked including the boot and the underside and closed circuit cameras keep a watch on every single person entering or leaving. These compounds, which are usually quite away from the downtown, have very tight security including armed policemen guarding the entrances.

In addition to the security, these compounds have the added advantage of limited "freedom", particularly for the women, in that they need not wear the abaya or the black robe as long as they are inside the four walls of the compound. Western expatriates staying in these compounds enjoy quite a good lifestyle (rather luxurious as compared to staying in downtown), though some would say that it is quite like a golden cage.

Of course, western expatriates have to be alert when going out. Some of the Do's and Don'ts are:

  • Avoid going out alone. You attract attention.
  • Avoid displaying wealth in public places, particularly supermarkets. This need not necessarily be cash, it could also mean travelling in a flashy, brand-new Lexus. Remember, people keep watching you, whether you realize it or not.
  • Avoid going out for jogging / walks outside your compound. If you stay in downtown, try shifting to one of these compounds.
  • Try taking different routes to work every day.

It is not the intention of this blog to scare the would-be expatriate about the security condition in Saudi Arabia, but these tips are just to make him cautious. These tips would probably be applicable anywhere else in the world too. The bottom-line is that the probability of being attacked in Saudi Arabia is more or less the same as that of being mugged late night in a New York subway ;) One need not be unduly worried, though use of common sense and alertness is called for.
Finally, do remember that there are western expatriates in Saudi Arabia, some of them working for over a decade.
Did you like this post? Do feel free to comment on this and also if you would like information on other topics.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Changing your visa profession

As mentioned in my earlier post i.e., Types of Visas , every work visa is associated with a profession. For example, a sponsor would like to hire an engineer but probably does not have enough engineer visas with him. The normal procedure for the sponsor would have been to apply to the Saudi Government's labor ministry and get the required number of visas corresponding to the professionals he wishes to hire. However, getting a new visa these days is almost next to impossible due to pressure of Saudization from the government.

The result is quite predictable! The sponsor will try to bring you into the kingdom with whatever visa available with him. Of course, it is not necessary that you have to work in the same profession as what is mentioned in your visa. But please be cautioned that you will be severely affected when it comes to benefits, such as bringing your family into the kingdom. This has already been covered in
earlier but it is worth mentioning here once more because it is quite a herculean task to have your profession changed. Some sponsors bring candidates on visit visas with a verbal promise that it will soon be converted into a work visa after arrival into the kingdom. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Only a written instruction from the governor's office will change a person's visit visa to a work visa. Rest assured that this is almost next to impossible, :-O Working in Saudi Arabia is a rewarding experience provided you take adequate precautions and be extremely careful, particularly about the type of visa and the profession mentioned in your visa before you set foot into the kingdom.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Switching jobs in Saudi? Kalli Valli

There are some peculiar features of working in Saudi Arabia which the would-be expat must know. One cannot change jobs just like that. It's hire-and-fire policy, but only one-way. In other words, if your sponsor decides to fire you, then there is nothing you can do about it. But if YOU want to resign and if your sponsor isn't too happy about it, then you had it! :-S
There is something called NOC, an acronymn for No Objection Certificate. If you would like to work for another employer in Saudi Arabia, unless your present sponsor gives you an NOC, it is impossible to switch jobs. Of course, officially the law says that NOC is no longer required if it has not been specifically agreed in your original contract, but in reality the law has not been implemented. Surprised? :-? How can there be a law but which is not implemented? Read on. What this means is that there is a law which says that you don't need an NOC any more to change your job (unless you have waived this right in your contract), but this law has not been put into effect in practice.
One of my friends, a safety officer, got an offer from another company which he could not refuse. As a matter of precaution, he did not resign but went on vacation to his home country on a short leave. He visited the Saudi consulate and enquired personally about this to the officer in the consulate, whether he could visit the kingdom on another visa and work for another sponsor. He was simply brushed aside with the typical Arabic comment "Kalli Valli" (loosely translated, this could mean in this context "just forget it" or "nothing doing")! When my friend insisted that a law has already been passed, the officer said that for him to implement the law, he should be instructed by his Foreign Office and by nobody else! In short, it means that whatever the law says, if it is not implemented, you simply have no chance for re-employment in the kingdom if your current sponsor would not agree for the same. The grapevine is that the law was implemented on paper only to satisfy WTO requirements, but obviously this cannot be verified.
So, if you are a first-timer who is looking forward to working in Saudi Arabia, then you better know about this important rule and choose your employer carefully. As they say, it is better to be safe than sorry.
There is also another category of job transfer called "Release" but more on this in another posting.
Did you like my post? Do you have suggestions or comments? Then please do write here, which would be a great encouragement to me.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Ever wondered why there are so many expats in Saudi Arabia? Any potential job-seeker looking forward to working in Saudi Arabia must know this important information. :-?
Despite its immense oil wealth, Saudi Arabia is still a developing country. Oil is still the major source of income, though there are several other non-oil industries too. But in terms of revenue, oil is still the Numero Uno cash cow for this country. The past 50 years has seen a dramatic and unbelievable jump in the economy of the kingdom. This has resulted in a huge demand for workers. The relatively lesser population of locals in the earlier years (this is now rapidly changing) resulted in Saudi Arabia throwing its doors open to expatriates to build their economy. You will find people from virtually every country in the world working in Saudi Arabia.
The sudden wealth and oil boom resulted in a very lavish lifestyle for the locals. The effect of this was the emergence of a new generation of Saudis, with a lot of money, but with inadequate expertise. With the population booming, the Saudi government had a problem of providing employment to its citizens. Naturally, the target was expatriates who were perceived to be taking away the jobs of the locals. Hence, the 'Saudization' program began, which literally means replacing the expatriates with Saudi nationals :-SS
The first focus was on government organizations, which have been almost 100% saudi-ized, barring a few low level positions. It has now become mandatory that companies in the private sector must also have a certain minimum number of Saudi nationals as their employees. The problem with this law (for the private sector) was not providing jobs to the locals, but not finding the right persons to do skilled jobs. Hence, all administrative staff are usually Saudi nationals, while all the technical work as well as the lower level positions like office staff, etc., are all still filled with expatriates.
The government jobs are already more than 99% Saudized, but still one could see quite a substantial number of expatriates working in government offices, particularly in lower levels. How is this possible? Well, the secret is that they are not government employees, but contractors. Many petrochemical industries follow this route because on paper they could show that they have achieved the Saudization quota, but in reality, the work is being done by contractors who are not directly on the rolls of the company ~X( . Sounds strange, isn't it? But that's the way things work here.
The bottom line is that if you have the right skills, if you are really efficient, then there is no reason for worry, because you will still have a job but only your employer would be a contractor.
Liked this post? Do drop in your comments. See you soon with some more practical tips and useful information.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

What's in and what's out

Despite all the negative publicity about Saudi Arabia, the economy is really booming. Of particular interest is the eastern region of Al Jubail where a whole new industrial city called Jubail-II is under construction. Towards the west and in the north, more industrial cities are being planned. The growth is mind-boggling and so is the man-power requirement. Not only are hundreds of new industries planning to come up in these cities, but also the logistics and support systems associated with these are going to come up at break-neck speed. <:-P
All contractors here are having a field-day. The ground reality as of today is that there are too many jobs but too few visas and hence too few people to carry out the same. Virtually, thousands of people are required for these gigantic cities to be up and running. So, which are the jobs in great demand and which aren't?
To give a comprehensive list is impossible. However, the most obvious job categories are engineers, technicians, fitters, welders, electricians, masons, plumbers, project management specialists....the list is virtually endless. When these new projects get underway, there will also be a huge requirement for support specialists, doctors, nurses, paramedics, carpenters, plumbers, IT specialists, etc. To sum it up, any skilled professional has a ready job waiting for him here, provided he has the required experience.
Now, for the "not required" list. Due to the ongoing Saudization program (more on this in a future post coming up shortly), several job categories have been classified as forbidden for expatriates. Typical job categories are secretaries, operators, showroom salesmen, jewellery shop people, etc. The list keeps varying frequently and it is rather difficult to give a comprehensive one. However, one can safely assume that any white collar job which does not require much skill, is forbidden for expatriates, even though this is a rather vague and loose definition. #:-S
Everything depends finally on the mood of the officer in the Saudi Embassy of your country whether he is satisfied that you may be allowed to work in the kingdom or not. Sometimes, there are hilarious instances (more of these to come in future posts). Recently, one of my friends, who has done his Phd in Chemistry, got his visa rejected because the stamping officer in the Saudi embassy was confused as to why a person who has done a doctorate in Chemistry is required for the kingdom (he probably thought that the word "Doctor" refers only to the medical fraternity!) =))
Do give your comments in this post on whether you feel the information given here is useful. This would encourage me to write more.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Different salaries, same job

A fundamental thing which a potential expatriate who wants a job in Saudi Arabia should know is the salary structure here. Please note that there are three different salary scales in almost all companies, depending on your nationality. The highest salaries are invariably for Saudi nationals. Next come citizens of the US, UK, South Africa, Australia and EU. The least salaries are for people from the Indian subcontinent and the Phillipines, collectively known here as "Eastern expatriates".
You may be quite surprised to learn that the job may be the same, but will find a guy from another nationality earning far less or far more than you. Also, you must be prepared, particularly if you are going to work in a government organization, that all higher level positions are invariably occupied by Saudi nationals. The only exception may be for the private sector, but here too the top boss will definitely be a Saudi national.
It is also quite common here that people with far lesser qualifications and experience may be your boss, but you should be mentally prepared for this too. Remember, as mentioned in my earlier post, if you are already in a senior position in your home country, you must definitely bargain your salary / position well and make things amply clear with your potential employer. Make sure to have all your emoluments / benefits in black and white in your contract, so that there is no heart-burn once you arrive in the kingdom.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

What do you want?

Before planning to come to the Kingdom, you must be absolutely clear about your needs. Saudi Arabia does not impose any kind of taxes and 100% of your savings can be renumerated back home. However, if you think life is easy here, then you are totally mistaken.

First of all, you need to make up your mind on what you need. Are you looking only for savings or are you looking for a good lifestyle? It if is the latter, then unfortunately, the place doesn't offer much as compared to other Middle East locations like Dubai or Qatar. Remember that this is a completely restricted society - no alcohol, no cinemas, no community events, etc. :-S So, if you are the kind of person who wants to "enjoy" life totally, then this place is not for you. However, all said and done, Saudi Arabia is the only place in the whole of Middle East where you can have maximum savings, simply because there just aren't enough outlets for you to spend! :D

Working in Saudi Arabia could be quite taxing and the maximum day temperature during summer touches 52 degrees Centigrade in most parts of the kingdom. Summer in Saudi Arabia starts by mid-April and may go on till almost end of October. Worse than the heat, is the humidity which is intolerable, particularly during July and August. Sandstorms are quite common as also hailstorms and one must be prepared for this. However, all indoor locations are usually air conditioned. If your workplace is going to be outdoor most of the time, then be prepared for such weather conditions. But don't get discouraged, people do work here and the happiest day is when you stand in the queue of Western Union to send money back home ;)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

More on visas

Due to the strict visa control by the Saudi government, it may not always be possible to get a work visa. An indirect way, though, would be to get a business visa. However, your sponsor must convince the government that this visa is for a specific project and your stay would be only for a short duration (typically 2 months or so). The problem with this kind of visa is that it is suitable only for short-term working, for example, a turnaround or shutdown job in an industry. You will not be able to bring your family with this visa as you would have come to carry out a specific business in the kingdom for a short duration only.

Some people try to come on a visit visa, but if you are caught working for a sponsor and you have come on a visit visa, then you are asking for trouble, because this is illegal. Also, unlike the UAE, it is a herculean task to get a visit visa converted into a work visa.

In short, if you want to work in Saudi Arabia and you are looking for long-term employment, make sure that you have a valid work visa and the correct profession mentioned in your visa. This would save you from a lot of hassle later.