Saudi Arabia

Details for working in Saudi Arabia

Why Saudi Arabia?

Saving Money: Do the math! Employment in Saudi Arabia provides the opportunity to save a major part of one's salary with tax-free income, free housing and an escape from most expenses of western life (such as the expense of maintaining a household and an automobile).
Except for food, telephone and recreation, most other expenses of daily living are provided in addition to your salary.

Travel: With at least 30 days vacation and 10 holidays (physicians are usually granted up to 40 vacation days), there is an opportunity to travel to fascinating destinations. Cruise the Mediterranean or the Nile River, safari in Kenya, tour Istanbul or Cyprus. All are within easy reach of the Kingdom and well-organized group tours are plentiful.

International Community: Much of the staff on most projects are non-Saudi. Perhaps 40% of the staff consists of foreigners with the balance of the staff from various countries. Because of this multi national staffing, the common language is English, however, you will have many opportunities to learn some Arabic.

Social Contacts: Because there are none of the usual outlets for socializing, most of the social life takes place at the community centers and recreation facilities. The community centers organize group tours and special activities that provide excellent opportunities to become acquainted with a large group of diverse people.

Adventure: If you are tired of the hum drum of everyday life, the constant effort to "get ahead", or, if you just want to try something new or get away from a bad situation.

Basic Employment Terms:

Minimum of a one year contract but two years is the usual term. Round trip travel from your point of hire, at the beginning and end of each year.
Furnished housing, uniforms, transportation and medical coverage PLUS salary. Minimum of 30 days vacation and about seven holidays each year.
Minimum two week pay bonus for each completed contract year.
Salary can be tax exempt in the US and Canada.
Because of the shortage of housing, most positions are unaccompanied status, (you can NOT take your family) except for physician & upper administrative positions. It depends on the employer's policies and your job level.

Probationary Period:
There is a three-month probation period for all positions during which your performance and skills will be evaluated. Your supervisor will prepare an evaluation report and recommend whether the contract should continue. If you are terminated during the probationary period you might have to purchase your own ticket home.
Annual Leave: Most positions provide for 30 days vacation and some (7 - 10) holidays. Physician and upper management positions provide up to 40 days vacation. No leave may be taken during the probationary period. Each employer and department has their own policies as to when you may take your vacation.

Pay Day:
All positions are paid monthly (usually the 15th of the month) by check, in Saudi Riyals. The checks can be cashed at the compound or at any bank. Money can be exchanged and transferred to your home account by telex or bank draft for a small fee. (Contact your local bank.)
The Saudi Riyal is a strong currency internationally and maintains a fairly constant rate of exchange. Generally the US Dollar equals 3.75 SR.

Your contract will indicate your monthly salary in Riyals. Generally, each 1,000 SR salary per month is equal to $3,200 US dollars per year. A salary of 10,000 SR/month would be equal to $32,000 per year. (Based on an exchange of 3.75 SR per US dollar).
Tax Exemption:
You are not required to payany taxes in Saudi Arabia, According to US IRS regulations, you can exempt up to $70,000 per year from federal income tax provided you are employed by a foreign corporation and that you are out of the US for 330 days in any 365 day period.
It does not matter when money is transferred to US banks but rather when you are in the US. (Contact the IRS and ask for Publication #54 and IRS Form #2555.) Work hours:
The work week is 48 hours with 8, 11 and 12 hours shifts depending on the assigned unit, your job and the employer. This will be specified in your contract.

For most staff level positions, overtime (time and one half) is paid for approved hours over 48 in any week but only if it is specified in your contract.
Depending on the type of job or profession, if the employer requires uniforms they are usually provided by the employer. Most staff are required to wear hospital issued uniforms.
Because the staff is multi-national, English is the common work language. All of our jobs require full fluency in English. Interpreters help in communicating with Saudi clients. Most Saudi professionals are fluent in both written and spoken English in addition to other languages. However, there will be ample opportunity to learn Arabic.

The housing complex is usually close to the work facilities so that you can walk to work. If you are on single status usually you share an apartment with one other person. The apartments are fully furnished including kitchen utensils and bedding. Some facilities even provide a TV. All you have to bring are your clothes. Amenities:
The housing complexes are usually nicely landscaped with gardens and recreational facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, recreation halls, cafeterias, small grocery stores, hair dressers and banks. Just about everything you need for daily living is in easy reach and there are opportunities to socialize with the staff.
Shopping is a true temptation throughout the Kingdom. Many luxury items such as gold, rugs and French perfume are very reasonably priced because they are not as heavily taxed. Electronics such as cameras and radios are also good buys. "If you know where to look" goes the local saying, you can find just about anything. The Kingdom boasts some of the most spectacular shopping malls in the large cities and some of the most interesting Bedouin "souqs" where you could purchase such items as a camel saddle, frankincense, Bedouin silver jewelry and craft items.

Grocery stores are plentiful throughout the Kingdom and competition helps to keep the prices in line. Although you can find American name brand processed foods like KIX or Cheerios in most stores, these types of food are more expensive. Basic groceries such as eggs, cheese, bread, meats and vegetables are fairly reasonable and plentiful. Most housing complexes feature a grocery store but there are also larger stores in town.
Even small towns may host American style establishments like Wendys or Pizza Hut. Of course there are bound to be more traditional foods available at "middle eastern" concerns (don't miss out on schwarma) along with a fair share of Chinese & Indian food.
Female Attire:
You should bring comfortable casual clothes such as jeans or slacks, long sleeve shirts, long skirts and warm sweaters. When you are shopping or in public places, inside or outside the compound grounds, your arms and legs should be covered as much as possible. The abaya, a long black garment, should be worn over your clothing everywhere in Saudi Arabia. All Saudi women cover their head and face in addition to wearing the Abaya. Ex patriot women do not.

Radio & Television:
The national Saudi Arabian radio station broadcasts in Arabic (AM) and English (PM). Short wave radio broadcasts of the Voice of America (VOA), British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and other stations are popular. Saudi Television has 2 channels, one in Arabic and one in English. Recently the cable news network, CNN, is also available. In some areas, that are serviced by "dishes", many channels from various countries can be viewed. VCRs are very popular and tapes are easy to locate.

Videos & CDs Most hospital communities have a central staff library which provides a video tape or book exchange. Some first run videos are available in the Kingdom although they are not "official" copies. Musical tapes are easily available and CD's can be found. However, music stores are sometimes shut down, from time to time, by the Mattawah. There are many book and stationary stores where you can even find New York Times best sellers on the shelves.
NOTE: Do not bring any pornographic material into Saudi Arabia.

Because alcohol and drugs are totally restricted and because only the military is permitted to own guns, the streets are much safer than in most cities in North America. The government maintains tight control on it's citizens and ex patriots. The important aspect to remember is don't commit any offenses, as the penalties are harsh.
One of the most dangerous activities is driving. Because of the new highways drivers travel at high speeds. So do be careful.
Due to the large number of abandoned animals, pets must be left at home. Importation of cats into the Kingdom is prohibited. You may be able to bring a dog but it is a long involved process. You may adopt one of the many stray cats or dogs while in country.
Because housing is usually situated close to your work site you can usually walk to work or the employer provides bus or shuttle service.
Getting into the local town usually can be accomplished by the public bus service. Some facilities also provide a free bus service for shopping trips.
NOTE: Women can NOT drive anywhere in Saudi Arabia.
Packing Most positions provide fully furnished housing. Mostly you want to pack your clothes and shoes. We suggest that you buy two of the biggest suitcases you can find and pack them full. Most employers do NOT provde excess baggage allowance. Do not take kitchen utensils, bedding, televisions and VCRs as these are readily available in the Kingdom and may already be included in your housing. Besides, sauid Arabia uses the European PAl standard so VCR's and some TV's will not work in the Kingdom.
Forbidden items:
Do not take alcohol, illegal drugs, pornography of any type and pork products. These items are forbidden in the Kingdom and will be confiscated in customs.
Your passport:
Your employer is your official sponsor and are required to hold your passport when you are in the Kingdom. The employer is technically responsible and accountable for you. Duplicate passports can be obtained from the Embassy if this makes you nervous.
Islam is the only recognized religion in the Kingdom. There are no churches, temples or other public places of worship except Mosques. Many expatriates gather in small, informal, private worship services. You are allowed to bring your bible and other religious items as long as they are your personal property. Do not bring items intending to distribute them. Do not attempt to "convert" anyone to your beliefs.

There are no bars, nightclubs or movie theaters. There are sporting activities of all types (mostly only available to men), socializing, sightseeing and shopping. Video rentals are widely available.
Your family. Because of the shortage of housing and the expense, most positions are considered "Single Status", meaning that you can not take your family. If you are hired on single status, your family can visit you in Saudi and stay for 90 days each visit but at your own expense.
If you are approved on a family status contract then your family is allowed to join you after you have completed your probationary period (usually 90 days). The compnay usually provides round trip air fare for your spouse and upto 2 children and medical coverage while they in the Kingdom.
There are many private English language schools both American System and British System in Saudi Arabia but the only go upto the ninth grade .Many families choose to "home school" their children.International schools associated with some embassies can be found . Some companies pay for child education and some do not. Costs average around $6000 per year per student with some discounts given for additional children from the same family.

What to do? You will not be alone, there will be many of your countrymen and other ex pats in Kingdom who can help you over the hurdles and introduce you to the recreation & shopping outlets. You will make life long friends. Be open to new ideas, ready to explore new cultures, food and people.

Obtaining a Work Visa / Saudi Arabia

After you are hired, the following items will be needed to obtain your work visa before you can report to work: 

  Your passport, valid for at least 6 months
Medical exam from your family doctor at your own expense.
Several lab test, including an HIV test.
 A police clearance report from your local police station.
Your educational documents will be verified.
Checking with your work references

Saudi Social Culture & You

Women can not drive anywhere in the Kingdom.
There are no bars or movie theaters
Alcohol is totally prohibited.
Dating is not permissable.
Only married couples may travel together or stay in hotels together