You will need a work visa to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The visa process is complex and lengthy. We have listed the requirements below in detail, along with handy notes (for any points with an *, refer to the Notes and FYIs section at the end of the article).
The visa process usually takes between six to eight weeks. Depending on the amount of time it takes for you to forward the necessary visa documents to your recruiter, it may take longer.
Here is the step-by-step process:
Soon after you accept an employment offer, your sponsor (i.e., your future employer in Saudi Arabia) will apply for your work visa authorization number and electronic Power of Attorney.*
Next, your recruitment company will send you the employment contract, along with instructions outlining the visa process, and all the required visa memos and visa forms, which will include:
• Medical Report for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in the United States (in triplicate);
• Authorization Memo. This serves as written authorization, allowing the Embassy to verify your professional credentials with your schools, registering/licensing bodies, employers, etc.;
• Visa Application Form for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in the United States with memo;
• Memo regarding the necessary Police Clearance.
Proceed with the following requests immediately (as these require the most amount of time to complete). The urgent items are:
1) MEDICALS: Schedule an appointment with your physician to complete your medical examination, including the required medical lab tests and medical forms. The medical lab tests and medical reports must be completed within three months of the date your visa is submitted to the embassy. The official Embassy Medical Report forms must be completed in full, and in triplicate, by a licensed US Medical Doctor (MD). The name, license number, signature, and address of your physician should appear clearly on each page of your completed medical forms. The following medical lab test results (required for the visa) must accompany your Embassy Medical Reports (any copies must be initialed by your physician)
• Hepatitis B antigen;
• Hepatitis C;
• Blood counts and screening profile (this includes: glucose, creatinine, liver function tests, urea, total protein and cholesterol);
• Chest x-ray: PA & Lateral. If you completed a chest-x-ray within 12 months of your intended departure date, your old test result can be used, and it will not be necessary to repeat this exam;
• Urinalysis (including glucose).
2) PASSPORT RENEWAL: If your passport is due to expire within the duration of your contract, apply for a new passport immediately. Ensure that your passport has two full blank adjacent visa pages, and that it is signed. If there are Israeli entry/exit stamps in your passport, a visa will not be granted by the Saudi Embassy.
3) EDUCATION VERIFICATION: Request either your official school transcripts and verification letter, OR, your verification letter (for a US registration certificate). Registration certificates are usually authenticated in cases where a candidate obtained a degree in a foreign country. In this case, the verification letter would need to confirm the year of registration, as well as the method of registration (e.g., passing NCLEX exam, conversion of foreign credentials, etc.). Please contact your registering body directly for assistance.
Please contact your college/university/school/institution and request your official school transcripts and verification letter*.
Your transcripts and verification letter must be in separate sealed envelopes, with your name clearly stated on the front.
The verification letter must be on official school letterhead, should verify the program and year of graduation, and should include your social security number, as well as the phone number of the contact person at the Registrar's office.
These items must be sent immediately to your recruitment company, as they must be submitted by your recruitment company to the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission for authentication.
The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission* verifies your credentials with both your school and licensing body, and stamps them with proof of authenticity. This process usually takes between 4 and 7 business days to complete. Your visa application cannot be submitted to the Saudi Embassy without this step being completed.
At this point, you have completed the requirements of STEP I, which to repeat, are:
• scheduled your medical appointment;
• submitted your passport renewal application (if applicable);
• requested your official transcripts and verification letter OR verification letter confirming US registration (for candidates with foreign credentials);
Next, courier (using an overnight service) the following documents to your recruitment company:
• signed employment contract;
• official transcripts and verification letter (if they are not being sent directly from the school to your recruitment company) OR verification letter confirming US registration (for candidates with foreign credentials);
• signed Saudi Embassy Authorization Memo;
• copies of your diploma/degree/certificate/current professional license/passport copy (only if you have not already sent these documents to your recruitment company);
• name change document* (if necessary);
• permanent resident card* for non-US citizens.
Now start working on your remaining documents (as listed below). As soon as they are all complete, please courier them (using an overnight service) to your recruitment company. These documents will include:
• Original medical lab test results (copies of these are fine as long as they are initialed by your physician);
Note: Some sponsors ask for medical lab tests or medical forms (Pap smear, ECG, vaccination reports, Pre-Employment Physical Form, etc.) which are beyond what is required for the visa application (refer to the Medicals section above for the complete list of medicals required for the visa). If some of the medical lab test results which are required by your sponsor are not yet ready by the time you are sending your visa documents by courier, include the medical results you have for the visa, and fax/email the other results (the ones required by your sponsor) when they are ready.
• Medical Report Forms (in triplicate) completed in full by your physician;
• Original passport;
• Completed visa application form and memo *If you have converted to Islam, please also include a copy of your conversion certificate. Also, if you are Muslim (even if born into the faith), but your name is not a traditional Arabic Muslim name, the Embassy may request a letter from your mosque, confirming that you are Muslim;
• Five passport photos* in color, on a white background. Please ensure you hand-carry an additional 15 to 20 photos with you to Saudi Arabia. Photos are required for nearly every application (i.e. gym membership, Residency Visa, etc.)
• Original police clearance certificate This document must be dated within 3 months of the date your application is submitted to the embassy.;
• Copy of your exit visa (if necessary): you will need to provide a copy of this document, if you have previously worked in Saudi Arabia. Without a copy of this document, the Saudi Embassy may refuse to grant you a work visa.
By the time your recruitment company receives your visa documents, they should already have received your visa authorization and electronic Power of Attorney* from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia/your sponsor, and will send all of your documents to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia for visa approval/stamping. It usually takes between 5 to 10 business days for a visa to be issued once the application has been submitted to the Embassy.
Once your visa has been issued*, the Saudi Embassy will return your passport (with the visa stamped inside) to your recruitment company. Your recruitment company will then request your airline tickets (usually issued as e-tickets) from your sponsor. As soon as your airline tickets are confirmed and received by your recruitment company (usually the week before your scheduled departure), they will be couriered to you, along with your original passport, any original documents you have sent, and pre-departure/packing details.
Once you have your passport (with the visa stamped inside), and your airline ticketing in hand, you are set to begin your adventure in the Middle East.
All that is left to say is رحلةسعيدة (pronounced, rḥlah sʿīdah) - Arabic for "Happy Journey" in English, or "Bon Voyage" in French**.
NOTES & FYIs:
* Visa restrictions: Work visa applicants must be over 22 years of age. Also, the mandatory retirement age at most employers is 60, after which they will not be able to apply for a work visa for you.
* Visa authorization number: This is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia, and forwarded directly to the Consular Section at the Saudi Embassy in the United States. It serves as proof to the Saudi Embassy which is processing your visa application, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia has authorized you to apply for a visa to enter Saudi Arabia. Without receipt of this document, the Saudi Embassy cannot approve your visa (even if you have obtained all the necessary visa documents and completed the required visa steps on your end). The Power of Attorney authorizes your recruitment company / visa processing agency to submit your visa application to the Saudi Embassy on your and your sponsor's behalf.
* Providing notice to your current employer: Do not give notice to your current place of employment until your work visa has been issued and your medicals cleared by your sponsor.
* When to complete your medicals and police clearance certificate (if you are delaying your departure date): If you are not departing within six months following your contract acceptance, it may be necessary to hold off on completing your medicals, as well as your police clearance certificate to ensure that these documents do not expire for use at the Saudi Embassy. These documents must be dated within 3 months (medicals) and 6 months (police clearance) of the visa application date.
* Medicals: Your medical forms must be completed by a Medical Doctor (MD). Forms completed by a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) or a Physician Assistant (PA) will not be accepted by the Embassy of Saudi Arabia. If your physician marks anything in the "Negative"/abnormal column on any of your results/forms, please ensure that you receive a letter explaining the condition, stating that you are fit for work, and confirming that the condition will not affect your quality of, or ability to, work.
* Transcripts/Verification letter: When requesting your transcripts and verification letter, please ensure that they are for the program which most supports the position you have been approved for (as listed on your employment contract) — e.g., if you have a Nursing Diploma and a Master of Social Work, and have been approved for a position to work as a Registered Nurse in Saudi Arabia, you would request the documents in support of your Nursing diploma. If you no longer have a copy of your degree/diploma/certificate (in the event that you have lost/misplaced your original), you will need to request an additional verification letter to be used in lieu of your document copy.
* Document notarization and Authentication process: The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission is unable to authenticate diplomas/degrees/certificates for which a candidate is unable to obtain a US-issued verification letter (and transcripts for US degrees/diplomas/certificates). For this reason, they are also unable to authenticate education/registration documents which were issued abroad. Note: the Saudi Cultural Missing NO LONGER authenticates online/distance education degrees (See: Distance Education Dilemma](http://www.hziegler.com/locations/middle-east/articles/letter-from-helen-june-2012.html))
* Name change documentation: If your name has changed (i.e., the surname on any of your official documents is different from the one as appearing on your passport), ensure that you provide copies of the applicable legal name change documents. This is to prove that the official documents (usually education/registration documents) and the passport belong to the same person.
* Permanent Resident Card: In the case of a non-US applicant (an applicant who is not eligible for a US passport) being processed in the United States, a valid residency permit (permanent resident card) is required. Without this document, work visa processing would need to be completed at the Saudi Embassy in the country of which the candidate is a citizen.
* Embassy visa application form : Ensure that this form is completed in full (typed out or handwritten in black ink in block letters) and signed. Your recruitment company will cover the visa processing fees (US$14 as of June 2012). Please note that work visas are valid for 3 months from date of issue (i.e., you must enter Saudi Arabia within 3 months of the visa's issue date). The religion field must be filled out on this form. If you enter "not applicable," your visa will be denied by the Saudi Embassy. Please enter MUSLIM or NON-MUSLIM, as applicable.
* Passport Photos: Dress conservatively for your passport photos, and avoid wearing religious symbols (e.g., crosses). The photos must be full-face views, and you must be facing the camera directly. Side or angled views will not be accepted.
* Police Clearance Certificate/background check: Must be a "name and date of birth search" done through the city or state police department. The certificate/letter must be a signed original on letterhead, and must state that you have no conviction record and no warrants outstanding. A fingerprint search is not required. Please ensure that your Police Clearance is requested no earlier than six months prior to submitting your visa application to the embassy (otherwise the document will expire for use at the Embassy).
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