Iqama Saudi Arabia - A Guide for Expats |

An Expatriate's Guide to Iqama in Saudi Arabia

Everything that you need to know about your iqama (residency card) in Saudi Arabia

Posted on

6 August 2018

Last updated on 23 December 2019
An Expatriate's Guide to Iqama in Saudi Arabia

One of the first things when you need to get into place once you’ve relocated to Saudi Arabia is your Iqama.

Iqa what you might ask – and we don’t blame you! Moving to a new country often times comes with a lot of documentation, and in Saudi Arabia, they usually have terms that you aren’t familiar with.

Here is our comprehensive guide to your iqama in Saudi Arabia.

What is an iqama?

An iqama is a residence permit that is issued to expatriates in Saudi Arabia. Expats need to have a local sponsor, usually their employer who needs to apply for their iqama on the expats behalf.

Your iqama allows you to legally work and reside in Saudi Arabia. It also needs to be carried with foreign residents wherever they go within the country to prove that they are permitted to be there.

If a husband is working and his wife is a house wife, then he will have to sponsor his wife and children’s iqama permits.

What information is shown on your iqama card?

An iqama card is like a identification card that you would normally carry with you. It is important to note that you must always be able to provide your iqama card. If you are unable to provide your iqama card, you can face hefty fines/.

Your Saudi iqama card will contain the following information:

  • Full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Job title
  • Employer name
  • Iqama number
  • Length of validity, including issuance date

What are the required documentation to apply for your iqama?

Once you arrive in Saudi Arabia, your employer has 90 days to apply for and finalise your iqama. It is the responsibility of the employer and not the employee to apply and pay for the iqama.

If an employee would however like to sponsor his family, it is his responsibility to apply and pay for their iqama.

Your sponsor will only require two things from you:

  • Your passport (original and a copy)
  • 2 - 4 passport-sized pictures

All the requirements at the time of application for an employee’s iqama are:

  • Your passport (original and a copy)
  • 2 passport-sized pictures of you
  • 2 passport-sized pictures of your employer
  • Completed iqama application form
  • Medical exam report
  • Medical insurance
  • Biometrics / fingerprints (which are done at the time of arrival by the immigration authorities)
  • First year iqama fees (SR 500) and an additional two-years’ worth of fees (SR 1000)
  • HRD fee (SR150)

Why is your iqama important?

Your iqama is your identification document in Saudi Arabia. Similarly how you require your identification card to open accounts and take out loans, you require your iqama card in Saudi Arabia to do pretty much anything.

You require your iqama card to open a bank account, rent a home, get mobile services, and register for utilities to name only a few things.

How can you apply for your iqama?

It is an employer’s responsibility to apply for and pay for an employee’s iqama card.

  • First a sponsor or local host will need to apply for a Block Visa from the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD). (Block visas are quotas that permit entities to sponsor foreign national employees for long-term work authorisation)
  • Next the company must obtain a Visa Authorisation number and Power of Attorney through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia.
  • A foreign employee can enter the Kingdom and start working as soon as their work visa has been approved. Their iqama and work permit applications must however be submitted to the MLSD within 90 days of arrival.

How much does your iqama cost?

According to the labour law in Saudi Arabia, an employer is liable for all the fees that are associated with a foreign employee’s work permit and iqama. An employer is also responsible for all the employee’s repatriation ticket fees if an employee decides to cease their employment at the company.

The 2018 expat levy is SAR 400 per month, per expat worker.

In 2018 the required levy for dependants are SAR 200 per month, per dependent. This fee is payable by the foreign employee.

How long is your iqama valid for?

Your iqama is only valid for one year and needs to be renewed annually. The law isn’t clear on whether you or your employer needs to pay the renewal fees so be prepared to cover your own fees.

It is also your responsibility to pay the renewal fees for your spouse and dependents. Your iqama must not be renewed more than 3 days before the expiry date.

How can you check your iqama status?

You can easily check the status of your iqama online. Simply follow these steps:

  • Visit the Ministry of Interior’s website.
  • Change the language to your preferred language in the top left hand corner.
  • Select “eServices” from the MOI’s home page and then select “Passports” from the left panel menu.
  • Choose “Query Iqama Expiry Service” from the sub-list.
  • Enter your login details and the randomly generated image code and select login. You will first have to create a new account if you don’t yet have one. The status of your iqama will be seen as soon as you’ve logged into your account.

Other useful tips about your iqama

The following iqama tips are useful information to keep in the back of your mind:

  • You must provide proof of a legal marriage to obtain a spousal Iqama.
  • Your employer has the right to cancel your Iqama at any given time. This will in turn automatically cancel your family members’ Iqama.
  • The employer must keep the residence permit whenever the employee travels outside the country on an exit re-entry visa.
  • Family members under household resident permit are not allowed to work until concerned authorities allow them to.
  • Men who turn 18 are not allowed to be sponsored by their father anymore and need to apply for their own special iqama.