Documentation required to enter Saudi Arabia


The movement of foreigners is tightly controlled in Saudi Arabia, and issuing of visas and other permits is subject to strict bureaucratic procedures.

Those who are denied access therefore have little opportunity for appeal. Fortunately, the average expatriate doesn’t need to deal with much of the bureaucracy. Most companies and institutions, large or small, have a ‘fixer’, whose job is to wade through the red tape generated by the various ministerial departments in order to obtain work and residence visas for foreign workers and their families. The fixer will also act as your guide whenever your presence is required.

The documents required to enter Saudi Arabia include the following:

  • a passport valid for at least six months (it’s useful to have at least three or four photocopies);
  • at least six passport-size photographs;
  • a marriage certificate (if applicable);
  • birth certificates for all family members;
  • a medical certificate in the case of workers.

Note that foreigners working in Saudi Arabia must have a certificate to show that they’re in good general health and free from HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, although tests are usually also carried out locally. Your sponsor will advise you what’s required.

Note also that any visible connection with Israel, e.g. an Israeli passport or an Israeli entry stamp, will disqualify you from entry.

While you’re in Saudi Arabia, you’re required to carry identification documents, e.g. passport or national identity card and appropriate entry and residence visas. Note that it’s common for labour officials to carry out spot checks on businesses in search of workers employed illegally and to inspect passports in the possession of the employer.

Saudi Arabia is the most conservative state in the region, with strict adherence to Sharia law, its city of Mecca (known in Saudi Arabia as Makkah) being the birthplace of Islam. The Saudis regard this as a particular honour, one that is reinforced by their wealth of natural resources. Ignoring the strict application of the laws and cultural rules can earn you serious retribution. Many foreigners, however, live and work happily in Saudi Arabia for many years.

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