Guidance

Living in Saudi Arabia

Official information British people moving to and living in Saudi Arabia need to know, including residency, healthcare and driving.

Before you go

See our travel advice for Saudi Arabia for up-to-date information on local laws and customs, safety and emergencies.

See moving or retiring abroad.

Local laws and customs

Saudi laws and customs are very different from the UK – breaking the law can result in severe punishment, including the death penalty.

See local laws and customs in our travel advice for Saudi Arabia.

Visas and residency

There are complex visa requirements for entering and exiting Saudi Arabia. See entry requirements for Saudi Arabia or contact the Saudi embassy in London.

A medical report is required for work and residency permits, and permits won’t be granted to anyone testing positive for HIV/AIDS. For more information, contact the Embassy of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi visas use the Hijri Islamic calendar. You should use the Visa Validity Service to check your permitted length of stay by entering your passport number and Saudi visa number – there are heavy fines and sometimes prison sentences if you overstay your visa.

Your invitation to Saudi Arabia is provided by your sponsor – this is normally your employer. Your sponsor will also arrange your Iqama (residency permit).

Sponsors are responsible for your welfare and conduct during your stay in the Kingdom – they may be fined heavily if you break the terms of your visa, and may pass these fines on to you.

Women visitors

Women must be met by their sponsor on arrival. Women travelling alone who aren’t met by sponsors may experience delays entering the country or continuing on other flights.

Married women require their husband’s permission to leave Saudi Arabia, while unmarried women and children require the permission of their father or male guardian.

Dual Saudi-British nationality

Dual nationality is not legally recognised in Saudi Arabia.

Working in Saudi Arabia

You need an Iqama (residency permit) to work. Your sponsor usually processes the Iqama within 3 months of you arriving in Saudi Arabia.

It’s illegal to work without your sponsor being noted on your Iqama, and your sponsor will normally hold your passport, while you retain your Iqama.

You can’t change your job or transfer your sponsorship without the agreement of your current sponsor, so it’s important you seek legal advice before accepting a new contract.

You’re not allowed to leave the country once an employment case is in the labour courts, and it can take many years to be finalised. See employment disputes in Saudi Arabia (PDF, 162KB, 1 page) .

Healthcare

See our travel advice for Saudi Arabia for information about emergency medical healthcare in Saudi Arabia.

Your sponsor must provide you with medical insurance – your type of insurance coverage will dictate which medical facilities you can use. Find English-speaking doctors in Saudi Arabia.

You should check your prescriptions are legal in Saudi Arabia.

Driving in Saudi Arabia

See driving abroad and road travel in Saudi Arabia.

Men can drive in Saudi Arabia for up to 3 months using a full valid British licence. After 3 months, you’ll need a Saudi driving licence – your sponsor can help you with this.

You must carry your driving licence and vehicle ownership papers at all times when driving. You’ll get fined if you’re caught without the correct paperwork.

Women driving

Saudi driving licences will be issued to women from 24 June 2018.

Replacing or renewing your UK licence

If your UK photocard licence expires, is lost or stolen, you can’t renew it with the DVLA if you’re resident abroad – you should apply for a Saudi licence.

Taking your car outside Saudi Arabia

If you don’t own your car outright (you got a local bank loan or bought on hire-purchase), you need permission from the creditor to take the car out of the country. A form (Istamara) needs to be issued for each country you’re travelling to, each time you travel.

Traffic fines

You can register to receive traffic fine alerts. If you don’t pay a fine, the fine will double and continue to double until it is paid. All fines are linked to your visa – you won’t be able to leave the country if fines are outstanding.

Tax

See tax if you leave the UK to live abroad and tax on your UK income if you live abroad.

You may be able to pay National Insurance while abroad in order to protect your State Pension and entitlement to other benefits and allowances.

See VAT in Saudi Arabia.

Pensions

See State Pension if you retire abroad and new State Pension.

If you have worked in Saudi Arabia, contact the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOCI) about your pension.

Life certificates for UK state pensions

If you get a ‘life certificate’ from the UK Pension Service, you need to respond as soon as possible - your payments may be suspended if you don’t.

Benefits

See claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad.

Find out which UK benefits you might be able to get while you’re abroad and how to claim them.

Many income-related benefits such as Pension Credit and Housing Benefit can’t be paid if you’re abroad for more than 4 weeks.

Voting

See voting when you’re abroad.

British citizens living abroad can vote in some UK elections – you’ll need to register as an overseas voter.

Births

See register a birth abroad.

Deaths

See what to do after someone dies.

See also:

Getting married

See getting married abroad.

Renewing passports

See overseas British passports applications and get an emergency travel document (sometimes called an emergency passport).

Pets

See travelling with pets.

Emergencies

As well as the general emergency number 112, Saudi Arabia also has:

  • police – 999
  • fire – 998
  • car accidents – 993
  • public ambulance services – 997

If you need urgent help, contact the British Embassy Riyadh.

Accommodation and buying property

See buying a property abroad.

Other useful information

Returning to the UK

You need a final exit visa to leave Saudi Arabia – your sponsor will arrange this.

Before the visa can be granted, you must:

  • settle all debts and fines
  • transfer out of your name all vehicles, mobile phones and credit
  • close your bank accounts
  • get your fingerprints taken at your local police station

You should also apply for a police clearance certificate, as these can’t be issued once you’ve left. You need to download the police clearance certificate standard letter and take it to your local police station to start the process.

To move your pension to the UK, contact the International Pension Centre.

See tax if you return to the UK.

See bringing your pet to the UK.

Disclaimer

Please note that this information is provided as a guide only. Definitive information should be obtained from the Saudi authorities. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information.

Published 25 March 2013
Last updated 6 June 2018 + show all updates
  1. Complete revision of guidance to ensure it's up to date and accurate.
  2. Employment disputes in Saudi Arabia
  3. Information update: Employment disputes in Saudi Arabia
  4. First published.