Connecticut, US

Nov 26 2019

Update on Suspension of Work Visit Visas

Saudi Arabia

At a Glance

  • Saudi Arabia is expected to introduce a new temporary work visa in the coming months, following the elimination of the country's only short-term work authorization option in October.
  • Details of the new visa have not been released. Until the new visa becomes available, there will not be an immigration option for foreign nationals seeking to work short-term in Saudi Arabia. At this time, foreign nationals seeking to work in Saudi Arabia are advised to obtain a standard Work Visa, which requires a formal long-term employment relationship with a sponsoring company in Saudi Arabia, or to consider traveling with a Business Visa, which does not allow “hands-on” work.
  • Fragomen is discussing the impact of the change and potential solutions for short-term work with Saudi consular authorities and relevant ministries and will issue an update if new information becomes available.

The situation

In the coming months, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD) is expected to introduce a new temporary work visa category and to provide clarification on what types of activities can be performed under different visa categories​. The introduction of this new visa comes after the Commercial Visit and Work Visit Visas were replaced with a uniform Visit Visa for Business, which effectively eliminated the only short-term work authorization available in the country.

​A closer look

October's unexpected change in visa categories was the result of a reorganization of ministry review protocols, according to information Fragomen has received from Saudi government agencies. Upcoming regulations are expected to formalize that the MLSD will oversee ​all employment matters, including short-term work visits. Visitors for all other purposes will remain under the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other relevant authorities (e.g. tourists fall under the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage regulations).

Impact

The announcement of an upcoming new visa type does not serve as an immediate solution for foreign nationals seeking to perform short-term work in Saudi Arabia, though it does provide background information for the unexpected changes in October and suggests a potential future solution is forthcoming. For now, however, foreign nationals are still without a visa option when seeking to conduct short-term work in Saudi Arabia and are advised to obtain a standard Work Visa, which requires a formal long-term employment relationship with a sponsoring company in Saudi Arabia. Foreign nationals may also consider traveling to Saudi Arabia with a Business Visa, although it does not allow “hands-on” work.

Background

In October, immigration authorities in Saudi Arabia unexpectedly replaced Work Visit and Commercial Visit Visas with a uniform Visit Visa for Business.

Looking ahead

Fragomen is actively monitoring the situation and discussing the impact of the change and potential solutions with Saudi consular authorities and ministries involved in the visa issuance process for Saudi Arabia.

An updated alert will be issued when more information becomes available.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to middleeast@fragomen.com.