Hiring in Saudi Arabia During COVID-19: What Should You Consider?
| Kevin Crasto

Hiring in Saudi Arabia During COVID-19: What Should You Consider?

As we progress into the second half of 2020, businesses are revamping their respective approaches to efficient operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the many challenges they are facing is managing employment. Hats off to recruiters and HR professionals who are constantly finding innovative solutions to steer employment matters.

This blog offers insights and tips for recruiters and HR that may help them understand some of their current options in Saudi Arabia.

Re-evaluating recruitment plans

Recruitment has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. Many businesses currently have a hiring “freeze”, while others still have openings to fill. Overall, businesses have become more cautious when hiring this year and we expect this trend to continue for some time.

Job roles

It is important for businesses to identify the roles deemed critical for operations and how to effectively maintain these key roles. Many will leverage automated processes when looking at the most cost-effective options available at this stage. They will accordingly hire/retain workers that will “add value” to their business. In addition, businesses may be considering subcontracting or outsourcing some operations to help with cost savings.

Where to look

Opening the hiring process to foreign nationals outside the Kingdom seems to be slow at this moment, considering the travel restrictions and temporary closure of most Embassies/Consulates. However, this is expected to change once Saudi Arabia allows foreign nationals to enter the country again, the timing of which is currently unknown.

Businesses wishing to bring foreign talent to the Kingdom currently need to wait, as the majority of administrative tasks (such as legalisation of documents, medical examination, procurement of criminal records and visa application and supporting document submissions at various consular posts) have been heavily affected due to closures. With these closures, it is not possible to complete the immigration progress and businesses cannot currently bring foreign nationals into the Kingdom.

Thus, we recommend that recruiters consider looking for candidates who are already in Saudi Arabia with valid residence permits (Iqamas). Challenges and restrictions are lower from an application processing perspective for “in-country” hires, as these applications are processed through the government’s online portal with no requirement for in-person submissions. In addition, application processing times are comparatively quicker.


The Saudization/Saudi Nationalization Scheme, or Nitaqat, is a policy implemented by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, whereby private companies in Saudi Arabia are obliged to hire Saudi nationals on a quota basis. As a result, it is important for companies to keep Saudi nationals in their hiring plans. From an immigration standpoint, a company’s health is determined by the number of Saudi nationals it employs and failure to abide by this policy has implications for the company.

The importance of assessments

When sourcing candidates during this unprecedented period, it is highly advisable that recruiters perform an immigration pre-assessment before making any job offers or proceeding with onboarding.

Companies are categorised based on the Saudization percentage under the Nitaqat programme. Therefore, eligibility checks are important for the candidate and also for the company to understand its health status (Nitaqat classification) and how it will be affected by a new hire or exiting employee.

Some roles in Saudi Arabia are reserved for Saudi nationals and are dependent on the company’s activity. There are some nationalities considered “high-risk,” and certain roles requiring specific education and/or experience and skills. There are a few instances that require assessments, illustrating why it is crucial for recruiters to ensure that such factors are considered in advance.

Should you wish to discuss your company’s Nitaqat ratings and any mobility or immigration related matters for Saudi Arabia, please reach out to me at [email protected] or your Fragomen immigration professional.

This blog was released on 30 June 2020 and, due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our COVID-19 microsite, subscribe to our alerts and follow us on LinkedIn