SAUDI ARABIA | “Saudization” Brings Major Visa Changes

What’s Changed?

New, More Extensive Labor Market Testing Requirements

On August 1 the Ministry of Labour (MOL) introduced its new Taqat online national labor portal and database of available jobs. The stated goal of Taqat is to “offer and facilitate employment and training services, efficiently and effectively, to further sustain and develop the labor force.” As of this writing, the Taqat website now lists over 1,500 available employment postings. This is obviously welcomed news to Saudi job-seekers. However, in a major step beyond simple job advertising, the MOL is now requiring Saudi employers to first post all available job positions on Taqat before applying for any new block visas for foreign workers.

The “block visa” scheme is the principle route that Saudi employers take to meet their needs for foreign workers. Under the scheme, employers receive a pre-approval through the MOL for several (a “block” of) positions for which they need foreign labor. After approval of the block visa, applications for work visas are in turn submitted at the Saudi Embassy or Consulate in the job applicant’s country of residence. It now typically takes three to four months from the time that the block visa application is filed until the foreign employee receives his individual work visa and arrives in Saudi Arabia ready for work.

With the addition of employers having to first post the job on Taqat in order to show an effort to recruit a local worker, this process is lengthened. The length of time the position is posted on Taqat and time spent considering the resulting local applicants now increases the overall timeframe before employers can have a foreign national begin work. The MOL has yet to publish guidelines for employers specifying how long a position must be posted on Taqat and what efforts must be made to review local applicants. However, employers at a minimum should be prepared now as part of the block visa process to show documentation of the Taqat position posting, the length of time it was posted, the number and qualifications of any local applicants for the position, and the reasons why the candidates were found unsuitable.