Saudi Arabia Iqama process: things to Know Before Arriving in KSA

Published by Travel Visa Pro on Thu Jan 17 2013

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made a vast effort to nationalize its ranks in the private and government sectors. They’re moving towards a 10% ratio which means they would ideally only like to 10% of their workforce to consist of expats. This is a lengthy and tedious process and will certainly take many many years to accomplish, if at all. However, with this being said, the Kingdom remains one of the best and most prominent places for health sector employees. It has the largest number of cutting-edge private and government-run hospitals/clinics and is backed by a multi-billion dollar investment board. The Kingdom quintessential plays as the axis for worldwide health workers.


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These once in a lifetime job opportunities can come to a screeching halt if the health worker is unprepared when they arrive in KSA. I have spent the past year representing some of the major hospitals in Saudi Arabia and it has come to my attention that personnel need to be completely prepared for their matriculation into KSA protocols and society.

License before Your Residence Permit (Iqama)

KSA has a bit different than most countries in regards to issuing licenses to their health workers. For the overwhelmingly majority of countries, you would move to the country on your entry visa, apply for residency, and then obtain the necessary licenses to work in your field. However, KSA actually does it in reverse. During application of the Saudi Arabia visa process, a person’s documents will need to be authenticated and attested by BOTH the host Saudi Cultural Mission and Saudi Embassy. These documents are then sent to the Saudi Health Council and presented for your licensing. Only once the license has been obtained can the applicant be authorized for entry into KSA, thus providing them with a chance to take their Iqama card. IF you do not have a license or it is denied you will not be able to get an Iqama card or stay in Saudi Arabia.  Therefore, it is very crucial that the application for your license be handled with excruciating care. So in short, no license= no Iqama= no work in KSA.

How to Go About Obtaining Your License?

The license part is a very tricky and challenging process and is best to either work with your recruiter OR a visa agent whom is versed in this process. The governing body whom reviews the documents is the Saudi Council for Health Specialties; we will just refer to them as SCH. This process needs to be followed in detail before arriving in the kingdom, but I recommend having patience as KSA operates on a case by case analysis, so they may or may not have more leeway with your particular case.

  1. Submit the application file to SCH, this should be handle by your employer OR the visa agency you are working with
  2. Receive the issued follow up card which is a piece of paper from SCH. This paper official recognition that your file has been received. It will have a reference number which allows the correct authorities to access your file. It will also include the $$ amount you paid and the permanent SCH number which will be viewable on your license once produced.
  3. Receive your temporary license. The issuance of the final license can take up to 6 months, so a temporary license is issued in the interim. This licence can be used to submit for you visa or Iqama card.
  4. Finally, receive your Release of Licence and Accreditation Certificate. This is what it was all about. After a few months you will receive the above and in hand you will have your official license. I highly recommend that you make no less than a dozen copies and put them in various places. If lost it will cost between $150-$300 for a replacement and the re-printing process takes a few weeks to happen.

After you have completed the above steps, you will be eligible for your Iqama card. Thus, completing the arduous process and now being able to assimilate into everyday KSA life. Now the above may seem relative easy and straightforward, but there are a lot of steps and hard work. Lastly, I recommend making copies of all the steps you follow as things can be misplaced, lost, or mixed up. It is always best to dot your I’s and cross your T’s when dealing with the vast government agencies in KSA. I highly suggest working with a reputable visa agency or making sure your recruiter is well versed in the hiring process.