what it's like for expats working in Saudi Arabia.

Are you considering working in Saudi Arabia? For many years, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has attracted job seekers from around the world, due to the financial incentives associated with working in the oil rich country, and the diverse range of employment opportunities for skilled professionals.

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work opportunities.

The oil industry accounts for a major part of Saudi Arabia’s economy, and is the major drawcard for expats. Outside of the energy sector, there are opportunities for employment in healthcare, IT, and the services sector, alongside finance and manufacturing. 

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how to apply.

Job applications by foreign citizens are typically completed outside of Saudi Arabia, and you may find that you will interview outside of the country as well. Many companies with offices in KSA use recruitment firms to assist with the recruitment of non-Saudi workers.

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major employers.

Major employers in Saudi Arabia include Saudi Aramco, Saudi Telecom Company, Saudi Electricity Company, and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation. Many other major corporations have operations in KSA, including BAE Systems, Cisco Systems, Procter & Gamble, Schlumberger, Nestlé, and Siemens.

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relocation process.

Although no two companies or moves are the same, a typical relocation process to Saudi Arabia involves:

  • Receiving an offer of employment
  • Clearing a medical examination and police background checks
  • Obtaining a visa, which your sponsor will arrange for you with the Saudi Arabian Consulate
  • Obtaining clearance for any dependents who will travel with you and settle in Saudi Arabia
  • Giving notice to your current employer
  • Having your personal effects packed
  • Travelling to Saudi Arabia to begin your new role

office environment.

Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country, and it is important to be observant of Muslim practices and laws when conducting business there.

Expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia may find themselves in a working environment which is very different to what they are used to. The culture and customs of Saudi Arabia are essentially Arabic, and Islam dominates all facets of life, including business. As Muslims pray five times a day, provisions are made for this during office hours.

working hours.

Average working hours in Saudi Arabia are typically eight hours per day. An exception to this is made during Ramadan, when working hours are often cut shorter to six hours per day for employees who are fasting. The working week begins on Sunday and runs to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday serving as the weekend.

office attire.

Appropriate dress is taken very seriously in Saudi society and is an aspect which foreign workers should familiarize themselves with, in order to avoid giving offence. In public Saudis and visitors alike are expected to dress conservatively. For men this means long trousers, not shorts, and long-sleeved shirts. There are specific rules for how women should dress when outside of the home, which include covering their hair and wearing an abaya.

Although non-Saudi, non-Muslim women are not expected to wear a veil, it is advisable for expat women to carry a headscarf for occasions where covering their hair is appropriate. Adapting your clothing and behaviors to suit local circumstances is critical, particularly for women, especially for establishing new business relationships.

pace & trust.

Saudi culture has a less rigid concept of time when compared to the West, and meetings are often loosely scheduled and set around prayer times. It is important to build trust when conducting business, and it’s not uncommon to begin meetings with general conversation before discussing serious business matters. Nothing is considered final until both parties have parted with a verbal understanding of what was discussed.


There are three major public holidays in Saudi Arabia for the private sector –  Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha, and National Day. Remaining holiday entitlement varies depending individual employers and employment contracts.

tax rates.

Most expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia are not required to pay income tax in the country. However, it is important to check your tax, insurance, and pension position in your home country before you undertake employment overseas.


visas & sponsorship.

In order to take up work in Saudi Arabia you will need an employment visa, which can be obtained via your sponsor. You will need to provide a signed copy of your employment contract, notarized certificates of your academic and professional qualifications, an up-to-date police report, and a medical report.


local customs.

Saudi Arabia is governed by firm religious beliefs, rules and traditions, which expats must acclimatize to. Strict gender segregation is sanction by both the state and Saudi society. Men and women are only seen together within a family setting or context. Contrary to common belief, women can work, usually within female-only environments inside schools, univertsities, hospitals, or certain government departments.


about randstad.

Randstad MENA is a subsidiary of Randstad Holding, a €20.7 billion global provider of HR services. With a unique approach to recruitment innovation, we advance the careers of our candidates and businesses of our clients.

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