Country specific information ...
Since the discovery of oil in the 1930s, Saudi Arabia has undergone a rapid
transformation. Much of the oil revenue has been invested in improving the infrastructure
of the country, including transportation, telecommunications, agriculture, education,
healthcare, and government. Saudi Arabia is within the top 30 global countries in
economic size. Manufacturing and agriculture have been expanded to satisfy both
domestic and export markets.
Many of the key industries have now been nationalised and the local workforce has been
developed, decreasing Saudi Arabia’s dependence on foreign workers. The government
has a stated aim of reducing the expatriate workforce to less than 20% within ten years.
The Saudi labour force is employed mainly in services (63%), industry (25%) and
agriculture (12%). Although foreign migrants currently account for approximately 35% of
the workforce many of these are workers from the Asian subcontinent, employed in
unskilled jobs traditionally shunned by Saudi nationals. Unemployment currently runs at
15-20%. Updated labour force statistics can be found on the CIA World Factbook: Saudi
Arabia (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/sa.html) website.
Over one quarter of the world’s oil reserves is in Saudi Arabia and it is predicted that
current production levels could continue for over a century. Oil revenue accounts for over
75% of the national income. As a result of rising oil prices export revenues are predicted to
Although a country not naturally suited to crop production, Saudi Arabia, through a
programme of land reclamation and irrigation, now ranks among the world’s top ten wheat
Saudi’s other major industries include urea and ammonia fertilisers, steel, plastics and
Graduates looking for work in the petrochemicals industry will find opportunities across the
Continuing improvements to Saudi’s infrastructure mean that there are opportunities for
engineers, particularly in the telecommunications, transport and power generation and
distribution sectors. New hospitals, schools and universities, as well as plans for 600 new
factories and 300 water desalination projects, are creating opportunities for graduates in
the construction sector.
The prioritisation of healthcare by the Saudi government and their commitment to
providing high-standard, free healthcare to all citizens, has resulted in numerous
opportunities in this sector. The number of nationals working in the healthcare sector are
traditionally low with only 13% of doctors, 11% of nurses and 38% health technicians being
from the country. Financial rewards are generally high in this sector although they do differ
according to experience and location.
Saudi Arabia’s commitment to educating and training its own workforce means that there
are opportunities for graduates in schools and universities. There are also opportunities for
teaching expatriate children in private schools and for working in specialist language
There are also some opportunities in banking and finance, although the 'Saudisation'
programme where private companies are expected to increase their national workforce by
5% annually has decreased the opportunities open to foreigners. The use of Arabic for
day-to-day business also gives the advantage to the local workforce. Expatriates may still
find openings in the marketing subsidiaries of finance that are not attractive to nationals.
Because of cultural and religious restrictions career choices for female graduates will be
limited. However single sex schools and private schools for expatriate children provide
vacancies for teachers. The shortage of healthcare workers means that there are also
opportunities in Saudi Arabia for expatriate medical staff.
The largest employer of UK expatriates in Saudi Arabia is the defence contractor BAE
Systems, with an estimated 2500 British employees. The former US owned national oil
company Saudi Aramco based in Dhahran is also a major employer of foreign workers,
either directly or via sub contracted service providers. Other multi-national oil and gas
companies such as Shell and BP also have bases in the country.
Most of the major IT companies have a presence in Saudi Arabia, including
Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, IBM and Sun Microsystems.
Contracts of employment must be written in Arabic. Translations are allowed but only the
Arabic version is considered binding. All contracts must specify the nature of the work or
job title, the rate of pay, the term of the contract if it is a fixed term and the date of
commencement. A trial period may not exceed three months for salaried workers.
The employer must bear the cost of repatriating the employee.
Normal working hours are eight hours per day or 48 hours per week. Friday is the weekly
Annual leave entitlement is 15 days after one year of service and 21 days after ten years.
The employer has the right to decide the time of annual leave.
Employees are entitled to special leave for bereavement, marriage, birth of a child and
Female employees are entitled to maternity leave of four weeks before and six weeks after
For salaried employees the period of notice is 30 days.
The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic. English is widely spoken and is the
universal language of commerce and business.
Applying for jobs
Since it is necessary to be sponsored by a Saudi employer before an entry visa can be
issued, standard recruitment procedures are completed in the employee’s home country.
Acceptable methods of application will be stated in vacancy advertisements.
CVs for jobs in Saudi Arabia should follow conventional UK/European Union (EU)
(http://europa.eu) format (see applications, CVs and interviews for more information) with
the exception of the personal information section, which should include details of marital
status, number of children, nationality and religion.
• Directory of Jobs and Careers Abroad;
• Living and Working in the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia.
General recruitment agencies and websites:
• CareerMidEast.com (http://www.careermideast.com/) is an online recruitment and
career development portal;
• Expat Network (http://www.expatnetwork.com) provides resources for expatriates
living and working abroad;
• International Jobs Center (http://www.internationaljobs.org/) lists international jobs for
professionals, including development jobs;
• Jobs Abroad (http://www.jobsabroad.com) allows you to search by country and type of
• GulfTalent.com (http://www.gulftalent.com/) online recruitment service for
professionals throughout the Gulf and the Middle East;
• OverseasJobs.com (http://www.overseasjobs.com) advertises global jobs;
• Riyadh Expat Jobs (Saudi Arabia)
(http://www.expatindex.com/riyadh-expat-jobs-saudi-arabia.asp) has a useful list of
recruitment sites relevant to the region and also links to a CV distribution service;
• Saudi Recruitment (http://www.saudirec.com/) is an extensive database of vacancies
in accounting, banking, construction, customer services, hotels, HR, military,
administration, broadcasting, consultation and health.
• Teach Abroad (http://www.teachabroad.com/) has vacancies in most areas of the
• King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre
(http://www.kfshrc.edu.sa/employment) has a database of medical and medical
Getting advice abroad
University careers service abroad
Support services for students at Saudi Arabian universities are a relatively recent
introduction. The careers guidance process is usually incorporated into a general process
of counselling and advice. The practical aspects of job search, CV and interview
preparation, liaison with employers, careers fairs, and open days are the responsibility of
the alumni association.
Services are usually restricted to students enrolled at the universities but it may be helpful
to contact the counselling and advice services at relevant institution directly.
Public employment services
Despite our research, which included investigation of various general English language
jobs and recruitment websites (see contacts and resources for a full list of sources used),
there is currently no information available in this category.
Because of strict visa and work permit regulations and the necessity of a Saudi Arabian
sponsor work experience opportunities are very rare. Graduates with relevant experience
may be able to obtain short-term work through specialist agencies.
Saudi Arabia now has eight universities, all founded since the 1950s:
• Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University (http://www.imamu.edu.sa/) in Riyadh;
• Islamic University of Medinah (http://www.iu.edu.sa) in the Holy City of Madinah;
• King Abdul Aziz University (http://www.kaau.edu.sa/) in Jeddah;
• King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) (http://www.kfupm.edu.sa/)
• King Faisal University (http://www.kfu.edu.sa/) in Dammam and Hofuf;
• King Khaled University (http://www.kku.edu.sa) in Abha.
• King Saud University (http://www.ksu.edu.sa/) in Riyadh;
• Umm Al-Qura University (http://www.uqu.edu.sa/) in the Holy City of Makkah;
Opportunities for postgraduate study by foreign students are extremely limited. Although
Saudi universities have undergone a period of expansion, the aim has been to provide
opportunities for nationals who previously had to study abroad.
The majority of opportunities for overseas students to study in Saudi Arabia are at the
Islamic University of Madinah, which currently has students from more than 70 countries.
The focus is on religious affairs and teaching is in Arabic, although there are
language-teaching facilities for non-Arabic speakers. Admissions requirements state that
applicants should be Muslim.
As teaching is conducted in English there may be opportunities at the King Fahd University
of Petroleum and Minerals for science and technology graduates.
Visa and immigration
It is not possible for non-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (http://www.gcc-sg.org) citizens
to travel to Saudi Arabia without a visa. A contract with a Saudi employer will entitle the
employee to an entry visa, which also functions as a temporary residence and work permit.
Visas can be obtained at Saudi Arabian embassies by submitting the necessary forms, a
valid passport, a signed contract of employment and a letter from the sponsor. Full details
of documentation required, fees and application lodging and collection times can be
obtained from the embassy.
Once employment has commenced the employer will apply for a work and residence
permit (iqama) on behalf of the employee. This will be for a fixed term but can be renewed.
Permits are cancelled when employment ends unless permission to transfer to another
post is received from the original employer.
Saudi Arabia, the largest of the six Gulf States, covers an area of 865,000 square miles,
approximately four fifths of the Arabian Peninsula. It is divided into six regions, the Nafud,
the Rub Al-Khali or Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world, Eastern Province,
Hijaz, Asir and Najran.
Capital and main cities
Saudi Arabia’s capital city is Riyadh. Major cities include Jeddah, the major port, the
religious centres of Makah Al-Mukarama (Mecca) and Medina, Dammam, Al-Khubar and
Dhahran (the focus of the oil industry).
The birth of Islam in the 7th century and the unification of the tribes and clans of the
Arabian Peninsula under one religion was the most significant event in the country’s
King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Saud established the modern Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia in 1932.
Saudi’s population is 26.4 million; this figure includes approximately 5.5 million expatriate
Ethnic and religious groups
The majority of the Saudi population is ethnically Arab. Most Saudis are Sunni Muslims
following the Wahhabi sect of Islam. There is also a Shiite minority (5-10% of the
population) most of whom live in the Eastern Province.
Life in an Islamic country contrasts dramatically to that in western countries and it is
important for expatriate workers to fully appreciate the impact religion exerts on daily
activities. At prayer time shops close and TV broadcasts are interrupted. Alcohol, pork,
cinemas and theatres are illegal. Women are not allowed to drive and the segregation of
the sexes is common. The matawwa or religious police are entrusted with enforcing the
strict moral and social code and can be particularly vigilant during Ramadan.
The climate of Saudi Arabia is harsh and arid. In the interior daytime summer
temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). In coastal areas
humidity can be 100% and sandstorms are a frequent occurrence in Arabian deserts.
Although frost can occur in the deserts and mountains, winters are generally mild in most
areas. Rainfall is limited except in the southeastern region.
The currency of Saudi Arabia is the Saudi riyal (SR). One riyal is divided into 100 halalas.
Although relations between Saudi Arabia and the western world are strong and the Saudi
government takes a firm stance against terrorism, there is some tension between the
country’s rulers and extremist groups.
There have been terrorist attacks in the country, some targeted at foreigners and
according to security departments more are planned.
At the time of writing (autumn 2005), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
(http://www.fco.gov.uk/) advice is to be aware of the possibility of terrorist activities, be
vigilant about personal security and regularly assess the political situation. More detailed,
regularly updated information can be obtained from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Contacts and resources
The following AGCAS publications should be available in your university careers service.
Postgraduate Study and Research, AGCAS Information Booklet, Biennial
Using Languages, AGCAS Information Booklet, Biennial
Working Abroad, AGCAS Information Booklet, Biennial
Directory of Jobs and Careers Abroad, Vacation Work Publications, Biennial
Living and Working in the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, Survival Books Ltd, 2003
Saudi Arabia, Lonely Planet Publications, 2004
Arab Net, http://www.arab.net/
CIA World Factbook: Saudi Arabia,
European Union (EU), http://europa.eu
Expat Network, http://www.expatnetwork.com
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), http://www.fco.gov.uk/
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), http://www.gcc-sg.org
Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University, http://www.imamu.edu.sa/
International Jobs Center, http://www.internationaljobs.org/
Islamic University of Medinah, http://www.iu.edu.sa
Jobs Abroad, http://www.jobsabroad.com
Kidon Media-Link, http://www.kidon.com/media-link
King Abdul Aziz University, http://www.kaau.edu.sa/
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), http://www.kfupm.edu.sa/
King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre,
King Faisal University, http://www.kfu.edu.sa/
King Khaled University, http://www.kku.edu.sa
King Saud University, http://www.ksu.edu.sa/
Languages Work, http://www.languageswork.org.uk/
The National Council for Work Experience (NCWE), http://www.work-experience.org/
Riyadh Expat Jobs (Saudi Arabia),
Saudi Recruitment, http://www.saudirec.com/
Teach Abroad, http://www.teachabroad.com/
Umm Al-Qura University, http://www.uqu.edu.sa/
Ministry of Higher Education in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh 11153, Saudi Arabia
Tel: +966 1 441 5555 URL: http://www.mohe.gov.sa/
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London, 30 Charles Street, London, W1J 5DZ
Tel: 020 7917 3000 URL: http://www.saudiembassy.org.uk
Saudi Arabian Consular Office, Visa Section, 30-32 Charles Street, London, W1
Tel: 020 7917 3000
(c)Content copyright of or licensed to AGCAS(www.agcas.org.uk)
Written by Linda Prescott, Northumbria University, Autumn 2005.
Edited by Briony Chown, AGCAS, Autumn 2005.
The work of writers and editors is gratefully acknowledged