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).
As of June 2012, the visa process takes between 8 to 10 weeks. Depending on the amount of time it takes for you to forward the necessary visa documents to your recruiter, it may take longer.
STEP-BY-STEP VISA PROCESS:
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:
a. Medical Report for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Canada;
b. Embassy Authorization Memo. This serves as written authorization, allowing the Embassy to verify your professional credentials with your schools, registering/licensing bodies, employers, etc.;
c. Visa Application Form with Memo for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Canada;
d. Statement of Religion/Education Form for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Canada;
e. Memo regarding the necessary Police Clearance.
Proceed with the following requests immediately (as they require the most amount of time to complete). The urgent items are:
i. 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 of your visa application is submitted to the embassy. The official Embassy Medical Report form must be completed in full by a physician licensed in Canada. The name, license number, signature, and address of your physician should appear clearly on each page of your completed medical forms. After the Medical Report Form has been completed by your physician, you must submit it to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in your province for verification/stamping. The stamp from the College verifies that the physician who completed your medical forms is a true/licensed physician in Canada. To complete this step, please contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons in your province directly. Depending on where their office is located, you will need to either visit them in person to complete your request, or send your request in by courier. Please note that for requests completed by courier, you may wish to provide the College with your recruitment company's address, so that they can forward your original stamped Medical Report Form to your recruitment company directly when it is ready. The following medical lab test results (required for the visa) must accompany your Embassy Medical Report form (any copies must be initialed by your physician):
ii. Passport renewal: If your current passport is due to expire before the end of your signed 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.
iii. Education/registration* and training verification: You will need to send original documents to your recruiter to serve as proof of your education/registration (as outlined in Point A) AND your training/work experience (as outlined in Point B).
A. Send either your original Canadian education document OR if you completed your professional education abroad, your original Canadian board/registration document. The document must be in English or French — if your document is in Latin, it must be translated. If you have lost/misplaced your original diploma/degree/certificate or board/registration document, you will need to request an original Status Letter/Verification Letter from your school or registration board, signed, and on official letterhead. This document must state your name, program/professional registration, and year of graduation/registration, as it will be used in lieu of your original diploma/degree/certificate/board registration document.
B. Send an original employment letter from a previous/current employer in Canada. This must be on letterhead stating your name, position (the profession/title on this document must match your profession as listed on your contract), and period of employment. This step is done to verify that you have been working in the area/profession as stated on your employment contract for Saudi Arabia.
iv. Please forward your original documents immediately after you have accepted the employment contract. Your visa application cannot be submitted without this step being completed. Once your recruitment company has received both original documents (i.e., your original education/registration document AND your original employment letter), they will have both documents notarized, and will then forward the notarized copies to The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canada for stamping/authentication. Our office generally returns the original documents in the pre-departure package (which is sent out once a candidate's visa has been stamped and their ticketing issued). The stamp from Foreign Affairs certifies that the notary public who completed the notarization service is in fact a licensed/practicing notary public in Canada. Once this process is complete, the original notarized copy which has been stamped by Foreign Affairs will be considered equivalent to your original document (in terms of authenticity), and can be used in lieu of the original for official purposes. The notarized documents are later sent to the Saudi Embassy (with the visa application) for the final step of legalization, which allows them to be used officially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
v. Completion of missing documents: Send copies of your current professional license and passport copy to your recruitment company (only if you have not previously sent these items to them).
At this point, you have completed the requirements of STEP 1, which to repeat, are:
i. scheduled your medical appointment;
ii. submitted your passport renewal application (if applicable);
iii. sent your original education/registration document AND original employment letter to your recruitment company by overnight courier;
iv. sent copies of your missing documents (as applicable) to your recruitment company
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:
i. 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/e-mail the other results (the ones required by your sponsor) when they are ready.
ii. Medical Report Form completed in full by your physician AND stamped by the College of Physicians and Surgeons in your province;
iii. Signed employment contract;
iv. Signed Saudi Embassy Authorization Memo;
v. Signed Statement of Religion/Education Form
vi. Copy of name change document* (if necessary);
vii. Copy of permanent resident card* for non-Canadian citizens;
ix. Completed visa application form with 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;
x. Three passport photos* in color, on a white background;
xi. Original police clearance certificate This document must be dated within 3 months of the the date your visa application is submitted to the embassy;
xii. Copy of exit visa (if necessary) : you will need to provide this document, if you have previously worked in Saudi Arabia. Without a copy of the exit visa, the Saudi Embassy may refuse to grant you a work visa.
Please note that all work visa applications must be submitted to the Embassy by your recruitment company, or if you are not working with a recruitment company, via one of the Embassy's authorized agents. A list of these is available on the Embassy's website.
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 رحلة سعيدة (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, as the mandatory retirement age in Saudi Arabia is 60, the Embassy will only issue work visas to persons under the age of 60.
• 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 Canada. 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 and related electronic Power of Attorney, 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 of the visa application.
• Medicals: 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.
• Education/registration documents: Please ensure that the original document you send as proof of your education/registration, is 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.
• 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-Canadian applicant (an applicant who is not eligible for a Canadian passport) being processed in Canada, 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 (C$22 as at 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.
• Passport Photos: These must be 4 cm by 6 cm. 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. It is best that you travel with 15-20 additional photos with you to Saudi Arabia. You will find that almost everything you apply for requires a photo (gym membership, residency permit etc.)
• Police Clearance Certificate: Original (Canada/nation- wide) police clearance certificate — this must be a "name and date of birth search" done through the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database (also known as the National Repository of Criminal Records), and must state that you have no conviction record and no warrants outstanding. A fingerprint search is not required. This document must be dated within 3 months of the visa application date.
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