Most Common FAQ:

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.

You are from the US/Canada, are single, have no children, and are interested in saving money. And assuming 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 something 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 the Middle East your yearly budget would look something 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) @ $100/month -$1,200 -$1,200 -$1,200
Left for food, clothes, travel, savings, shopping $37,600 $57,600 $77,600

NOTE: If the Canadian dollar is weaker than the US dollar, Canadians (upon exchanging their money) will 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 the Middle East, 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, the Middle East is the place to do it. Moreover you can do it and still play golf, go to plays, dive in the Red Sea, play hockey, and mingle with people from throughout the world.

2. Is it safe?

There is relatively little crime in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Like the U.S., they do have instances of terrorist attacks, however, the level of day-to-day violence is far less than one would find in a city of comparable size in the USA or Canada.

3. What is a single-status contract?

A single-status contract means that even if you are married, your spouse and/or family members cannot accompany you on the contract. No exceptions are made. On a single-status contract, accommodations, air tickets, and medical coverage are provided for the employee only. Only senior administrative (e.g., Director/Head of a Clinical or Non-Clinical Department) and physician contracts provide married-status contracts, which offer family members accommodations, travel, and health benefits.

4. What currency will I be paid in?

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

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Riyals (Since 1984, the SR has been pegged to USD at a rate of USD$1=SR3.75)

UAE: Dirhams (AED are pegged to USD at a rate of USD$1=AED3.67)

Qatar: Qatari Riyals (QR are pegged to USD at a rate of US$1=QR3.64)

5. When will I get my first pay cheque?

In Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar you are paid once a month. Pay cheques are automatically deposited into a local bank account, which will be set up after your arrival to the Middle East.

6. Should I bring cash or credit cards with me when I travel?

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 US800-$1,000 to pay for food and initial set-up costs (most people like to personalize their apartment) in your new home. Ask your recruiter for more details.

7. Does the hospital keep my passport?

Upon arrival for orientation at your employer, your passport will be held by your employer, as they process your igama (work permit). Once the igama has been processed, your receive your passport back.

  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). Rates are subject to change.

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

In either case, you will temporarily need to hand over your passport to get the exit/reentry visa.

8. Where will I live?

Most expatriate staff live in housing provided by the hospital. Housing is typically provided on the hospital compound or in a gated community. Most have facilities such as pools, gyms, tennis courts, running tracks, etc. You’re free to come and go as you please (although some compounds have late-night curfews).

9. Do I have to share my apartment/house?

Physicians and most senior administrators are entitled to non-shared housing. All other contracts usually receive shared accommodations with one-two other housemates. Staff in shared housing will always have their own bedroom.

10. 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 the hospital will try to accommodate requests (depending, of course, on availability). 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.

11. How long does the entire recruitment process take?

For Saudi Arabia, the recruitment process can take anywhere from 3-5 months, on average. The time it takes to complete the process is highly dependent on how quickly you submit your application, licensing and visa documents to our office.

For UAE, the recruitment process can take anywhere from 6-12 months, on average. The reason that it takes longer in the UAE is that you must obtain your professional license through the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi before you can travel.

12. Is there an age limit?

Most countries in the Middle East have instituted a mandatory retirement policy. With few exceptions, you will not be offered a position if you are 60+, or will turn 60 during the period of a one-year contract.

13. Is it common for some jobs to be gender-specific?

Since Muslim women do not feel comfortable having male nurses examining their bodies, there are usually a limited number of male nurses in units that treat both men and women (e.g., ICU, RR). (Typically medical imaging positions in ultrasound and general radiology are also restricted to females.) Female nurses and technologists are, however, able to work with both female and male patients. Male doctors, despite the cultural preference, examine and treat local women and men. RRTs can treat both women and men.

14. Healthcare coverage is provided by the hospital. But what if the hospital does not perform the services you require?

In the past, when this has happened, the hospital at which an individual was working has referred the employee to a local hospital where the service was offered.

15. I have worked in Saudi Arabia before, but did not finish my contract due to a family medical reason. What are the chances that I would be able to get a visa again to enter the country, and is it possible to know before I undertake a lengthy application process?

If you wish to return to the hospital at which you previously worked, your rehireability will depend on how long you worked there before you left, the quality of your work and working relationships, and the reason for your early departure. For example, if you left after, say, six months of employment because your boyfriend missed you, or if you left because a close family member became seriously ill and you had to care for her/him, the hospital would look at these situations very differently. And yes, we contact a hospital in advance to determine whether they will rehire you.

16. I am an African-American RN working in the United States. How do people in the Middle East treat black people?

We think most African-American nurses would tell you that they have been treated the same as other nurses from Western countries. But, as in any country, you may encounter people who hold racist attitudes towards people different than themselves.

17. I have a criminal record. Is it possible for you to help me with a job placement?

You have to obtain a police clearance for an employment visa, and if you have a criminal record, you will not be granted a work visa.

18. Do I need to obtain a special license to work in the Middle East?

Yes, all healthcare professionals must be licensed through the local licensing body (e.g., Health Authority Abu Dhabi, Saudi Commission for Health Specialties). Our agency will walk you through the licensing process.

In addition, licensed professionals, such as doctors, nurses, etc., must keep their American/Canadian licenses active and clear of any disciplinary issues.

19. I have several health issues (diabetes, HTN, obesity). What are the possibilities of being denied employment because of this?

All employees have to pass a thorough medical exam for a visa. In advance of this, with your initial application, you have to submit a preliminary medical questionnaire that is assessed by the hospital's Family Medicine Department. If you have preexisting health conditions, if you are on anti-depressants, or if you are obese with a BMI 30-35 or higher, Family Medicine may choose to not offer a contract.

20. Why should I work with a recruitment agency?

See our article on "Recruitment Companies," which outlines the advantage of working with a recruiter.

Some of the advantage include:

  • We have an "available-at-any-time", "no-question-is-a-bad-question" policy
  • We are familiar with the work environment in the US and Canada, as well as with the environment in the Middle East
  • We have direct access to staff at our client hospitals. We can get answers much faster than you would be able to on your own
  • Getting a work visa is a very complicated process. A recruiter not only guides you, but does most of the work for you
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