Saudi Arabia’s New Temporary Work Visa: What You Need To Know

Saudi Arabia has launched a new temporary work visa in response to a rise in the kingdom’s desire for short-term employees.

Previously, Saudi Arabia supplied work visit visas, which had considerable restrictions because they were only issued for technical and particular professions. However, the new temporary work visa has a broader scope, and the application process has been streamlined.

Saudi Arabia’s development is accelerating, with projects such as the NEOM economic development region and the strategy framework Vision 2030, and there is a growing demand for competent short-term workers in the kingdom.

Recognizing this need, Saudi Arabia has introduced a new Temporary Work Visa meant to ease and accelerate the process of bringing in short-term workers while also extending the types of workers eligible for the visa.

This is a change from the previously available visa, the Work Visit Visa. “The previous one used to be restricted, usually, to technical work, and certain designations, like engineering … were used a lot in the oil industry in the eastern province for people who worked on and off rotation. But this new one is basically available pretty much to all,” said Sara Khoja, an attorney with Clyde & Co in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. “It’s still designed for short-term professional projects in the kingdom, to resource those kinds of temporary projects, but it is available to a much wider range of individuals than the previous ones.”

“Older working visas have been largely restricted to male workers or older female workers, usually above 40,” said Heinrich Köllisch, legal consultant at Schlüter Graf in Dubai. “The invitation procedures are much easier right now.”

Why Did Saudi Arabia Launch The New Temporary Work Visa?

The Vision 2030 framework has spurred many new projects across the country, hastening a trend that emphasizes the importance of bringing in additional labor.

“There’s just a whole array of visas that have become available in the last two years,” Khoja said. “The level of resourcing that projects like NEOM need, it’s really high. So having these kinds of temporary visas helps.”

“Saudi Arabia is undergoing many overall developments in light of their Vision 2030, so facilitating doing business and enabling the private sector to run and conduct and manage its business in the most efficient and facilitated ways is one of the main objectives,” said Sara Aalamri, an attorney with AlGhazzawi & Partners in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “The labor law in Saudi Arabia also accommodates temporary work employment contracts, so this would seem suitable and to fit.”

Beyond Vision 2030, this new visa is part of a larger push to make Saudi Arabia available to foreign workers and tourists. “It goes hand in hand with other measures of opening up the country, of the transformation of the economy from a more closed-off oil-based economy toward an economic powerhouse in the region, where Saudi Arabia should be an attractive place for foreign direct investments,” Köllisch said.

How Does The New Saudi Arabia’s Temporary Work Visa works?

Compared with the previous visa, the Temporary Work Visa is much easier for foreign workers to acquire. “You need someone in Saudi Arabia who actually invites you; they will be sponsoring the visa,” Köllisch said. “So that entity should have a commercial register within Saudi Arabia, that must be a Saudi commercial or Saudi entity, either a single merchant in Saudi Arabia, a branch of a company or an independent company itself; it should be distinct.”

“It’s not something that an individual could apply for or obtain by themselves,” Khoja said. “It has to [come from] a Saudi company, well-established, registered with all the relevant authorities, registered with the Ministry of HR. And it would apply through an electronic platform for this business of bringing an individual in on a temporary basis.”

The visa is normally valid for a year, however it enables access into Saudi Arabia for up to 90 days at a time during the year.

What Are The Advantages The New Saudi Arabia’s Temporary Work Visa?

One of the numerous advantages for both workers and businesses is the ease with which the visa may be obtained.

“The ability to bring people in quickly and with flexible resourcing [is beneficial], because with some of the projects, you don’t want to necessarily have people on the ground all the time, especially as some of the projects are in remote areas,” Khoja said.

“It basically enables many more people to work in Saudi Arabia on projects more easily. Entities in Saudi Arabia can support their labor force inside with specialists as needed on a much swifter approach than before, so less administration, more flexible, more speeded up processes on projects inside Saudi Arabia,” Köllisch said.

The main disadvantage of the visa is that it cannot be converted into a long-term visa within Saudi Arabia, but it allows workers to test the waters of working in the Kingdom before committing to a longer-term contract. The key advantages for everyone involved, from Saudi Arabia to the employees obtaining the visa, are speed and flexibility.

More specialized work visas are anticipated to be introduced in the future. “It’s the beginning of a trend,” Khoja explained.

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