Most Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the financial benefit of working in the Middle East?

Some individuals compare their gross salary in the USA/Canada with the gross salary in the Middle East. They fail to consider that in the Middle East the income is tax- free, and your housing and healthcare are provided. Here (in the US/Canada), you pay income taxes, pay for housing, for car insurance, gas for your car and for your utilities. And this is not to mention the availability and high cost of entertainment in North America.

If you are from the US/Canada, are single, have no children, and are interested in saving money. And let's say you earn US$40,000, or US$60,000, or US$80,000 per year.

A) In the USA/Canada your yearly budget would look like this:

Item US$40,000 US$60,000 US$80,000
Approx. Tax Rate 25% -$10,000 -$15,000 -$24,000
Rent/Mortgage @$800/m -$9,600 -$9,600 -$9,600
Auto Costs (ins. $2,000/y + gas $200/m) -$4,400 -$4,400 -$4,400
Utilities (phone, cable, heat, hydro) -$2,400 -$2,400 -$2,400
Left for food, clothes, savings, entertainment, etc. -$13,600 -$28,600 -$36,900

B) In Saudi Arabia your yearly budget would look like this:

Item US$40,000 US$60,000 US$80,000
Approx. Tax Rate (n/a) -$0 -$0 -$0
Rent/Mortgage (n/a) -$0 -$0 -$0
Transport Costs (approx. $100/m taxis) -$1,200 -$1,200 -$1,200
Utilities (cable and internet) @ $75/month -$900 -$900 -$900
End of Contract Service Award (.5 Month Salary) +$1,666 +$2,500 +$3,333
Left With (for food, clothes, travel, savings, shopping) $39,566 $60,400 $81,233

C) In Qatar and the United Arab Emirates your yearly budget would look like this:

       
ItemUS$40,000US$60,000US$80,000
Approx. Tax Rate (n/a) -$0 -$0 -$0
Rent/Mortgage (n/a) -$0 -$0 -$0
Transport Costs (approx. $100/m taxis) -$1,200 -$1,200 -$1,200
Utilities (cable and internet) @ $75/month -$900 -$900 -$900
End of Contract Service Award (1 Month Salary) +$3,333 +$5,000 +$6,666
Left With (for food, clothes, travel, savings, shopping) $41,233 $62,900 $84,566

NOTE: Canadians who work in Canada earn on the currency exchange (from USD to CDN). If the Canadian dollar is weaker than the US dollar they earn more; if the Canadian dollar is stronger than the US dollar, they earn less.

Now, I am fully aware that some people spend everything they earn (no matter how much they earn) and in Saudi Arabia, just as in North America, this is easy to do. You can buy wonderful gold jewelry, and beautiful carpets at comparatively bargain prices and you can travel to Dubai every weekend. But if you want to save money, Saudi Arabia is the place to do it. Moreover you can do it and still play golf, go to a play, dive in the Red Sea, play hockey, and mingle with people from throughout the world.

But you want to save some money and travel? And you have the 7.5 weeks of vacation in which to do the traveling. Many people tell us that they save their regular salary, but work overtime to fund their trips to Thailand and their weekends in Dubai.

2. When will I get my first pay cheque?

In Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar you are paid once a month. UAE and Qatar use the Gregorian calendar for payday purposes and Saudi Arabia uses the Hejira calendar. In Saudi Arabia, different hospitals pay on different dates. At the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, staff are paid on the first day of the Heijira month.

In all the countries you are paid in the local currency, which is:

  • Saudi Riyals, which are pegged at an exchange rate of 3.75 to the US dollar, i.e., US$1=SR3.75
  • Qatari Riyals, pegged at 3.64 to the US dollar, i.e., US$1=QR364
  • Dirhams (in the UAE), pegged at 3.67 to the US dollar, i.e., US$1=AED3.67

If you arrive on-site shortly after payday you may have to wait up to 3 to 4 weeks before you get paid. Therefore you should bring approximately US$500 to pay for food and initial set-up costs (most people like to personalize their apartment) in your new home.

3. If I don’t get along with my roommate, can I move?

Given that you will most likely be housed with a total stranger, it is surprising how many people become life-long friends with their roommate. But yes, you can request a change and usually it happens. I wouldn't however ask for too many changes. It might appear that you, not your roommates, are the difficult one. We have heard some entertaining stories about roommates.

4. What is the housing like?

If feedback from our recruits tells us that a particular residence is undesirable, we will tell you so. If we receive no feedback, we usually assume and say, that it is OK, that we have had no complaints, that it is probably not as attractive as your current housing, and that people are very creative in finding local artifacts, prints, rugs, etc. and fixing it up.

5. Does the hospital keep my passport?

In Saudi Arabia, the hospital holds your passport during the time of your employment. If you wish to make a trip outside the country, you cannot do so until after you have finished your three month probation. In order to leave and reenter Saudi Arabia, you need an exit visa and reentry visa in your passport. There are two ways to obtain an exit/reentry visa:

  1. The hospital will apply on your behalf to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a single exit/reentry visa. The cost is SR200 (US$53).

  2. You can purchase a multiple exit/reentry visa, which is good for multiple trips for a six month period. The cost is SR500 (US$133).

In both cases, the hospital will give you your passport for your trip, but upon your return to the country, you are required to return the passport to the hospital.

6. In Saudi Arabia, given the restrictions on single men and women socializing, how do you meet a man/woman?

The embassies have chaperoned concerts and other get togethers. Also see: Social Life in Saudi Arabia.

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