For several decades now, many Filipinos have been going to Saudi Arabia for work. Indeed, this oil rich country continues to provide numerous jobs for overseas workers from around the world.
Aside from the oil and gas industry, job seekers come here to work in healthcare, construction, hospitality, education, domestic work, and other sectors. Thanks to its thriving economy, amazing landmarks, and rich cultural heritage, Saudi Arabia is among the world’s top destinations for foreign workers, including OFWs.
In this article, we will discuss how aspiring OFWs can come and work in Saudi Arabia. We will cover the requirements, procedure, and other topics relevant to becoming an OFW in the Kingdom.
The qualifications for working in Saudi Arabia would depend on the type of job you are applying for. Of course, generally speaking, you should have the necessary educational background, skills, and experience required for the job.
Moreover, you would need to have an employment visa or working visa to be able to work in the Kingdom. This entails getting a job offer from an employer (or sponsor), who will apply for your working visa on your behalf.
For your part, you need to make sure that you have a valid passport, along with the other necessary documents (more on this below). You also need to be physically fit, so a medical examination will be part of the application process.
Notably, citizens from countries that are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC (e.g. Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates) do not need a visa to come to Saudi Arabia.
As cited earlier, the sponsor or employer is the one responsible for the worker’s visa application process. Nonetheless, the job applicant also needs to ensure that his/her documents are complete.
Here’s the list of requirements for a Saudi Arabia working visa, based on the official website of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah:
- Filled up visa application form;
- Valid passport;
- Two (2) pictures, 4×6 cm, with white background;
- Certified and notarized copy of university degree or diploma and transcript of record, certified by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and Consulate of Saudi Embassy;
- PRC license for all professional work (if applicable);
- NBI clearance;
- Medical certificate, sealed by a hospital accredited by the Saudi Embassy;
- Training certificate (for skilled workers);
- OMA certificate (for Muslim workers);
- Valid driving license (for drivers);
- Original copy of visa authority and a copy visa; and
- Release letter (if applicant has previously worked in Saudi Arabia).
Aside from the above, the following requirements must also be prepared and submitted:
- Certificate of employment from sponsor, certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Saudi Chamber of Commerce;
- Signed copy of employment contract; and
- Confirmation of payment of visa fee through the Enjazit website.
NOTE: The Enjazit website, also known as “Enjaz,” is an electronic visa services platform wherein applicants can apply for a visa for Saudi Arabia. Check out this link to know more about the Enjazit website.
Also, please note that your official employment contract will be written in Arabic, with a translation in English. Hence, it would be wise to have someone who speaks the language to read and check the contract, before you sign the agreement.
Most Popular Jobs in Saudi Arabia for Overseas Filipino Workers
What are the most in-demand jobs in Saudi Arabia for OFWs? Here is a list of the most popular jobs, grouped according to industry:
- Oil and Gas Industry – engineers, technicians, administrative positions, etc.;
- Construction Industry – carpenters, electricians, engineers, project managers, etc.;
- Healthcare Industry – doctors, nurses, medical staff, etc.;
- Domestic Work – domestic helpers, housekeepers, caregivers, etc.;
- Education Sector – language teachers, subject teachers, teaching assistants, administrative staff, etc.
- Hospitality and Tourism – hotel and restaurants managers, receptionists, housekeepers, waiters, etc.; and
- Information Technology (IT) – software developers, computer programmers, IT consultants, etc.
How to Become an OFW in Saudi Arabia
Now that you know more about the qualifications and requirements for getting a working visa in Saudi Arabia, we will discuss the process itself. Once again, please note that the sponsor or employer is the one who’s responsible for most of the application process.
First, the employer registers with the Ministry of Interior of the Saudi Government. Then, they file the worker’s application with the Ministry of Labor — a process that takes around two weeks. As soon as this is approved, the employee files an application with the local Saudi Embassy or Consulate. This step could take several weeks.
Once the worker’s visa is approved, he/she can travel to Saudi Arabia. Afterwards, the next step is to apply for a residency permit or Iqama at the Ministry of Labor.
How to Obtain a Residence Permit?
If you are planning to work for quite some time (e.g. at least a year) in Saudi Arabia, you are going to need a residence permit, which is also known as “Iqama.”
The Iqama is a standard form of identification in the Kingdom. It is necessary for conducting transactions like opening a bank account and other activities. It is valid for one to two years, depending on the job contract. The Iqama may also be renewed or extended.
In Saudi Arabia, you should always carry your residence permit or Iqama wherever you go. Otherwise, if you are not able to present it when required, you could be fined by Saudi authorities.
Like most identification cards, the Iqama contains personal details such as your name, nationality, birth date, employer, job title, release date, expiration date, and of course, the Iqama number.
How is the Iqama obtained? Similar to the working visa, the application for a worker’s Iqama is also handled by the employer or sponsor. The following documents must be prepared:
- Your passport;
- Two (2) passport-sized photos;
- Two (2) passport-sized photos of the employer;
- Signed employment contract;
- Letter from employer or sponsor (certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Saudi Arabia);
- Certificates of academic and professional qualifications;
Medical report from a licensed doctor; and
- Police report with information on sentences (if any).
The cost of your residence permit will be covered by your employer. When it expires, your employer is also responsible for its renewal. In case you are planning to work for a new employer, you will need to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your previous employer, in order to renew your Iqama and start in your new job.
Licensed Recruitment Agencies to Saudi Arabia
When applying for work in Saudi Arabia, you need to ensure that you are dealing with an accredited recruitment agency. You see, if you apply through an agency that turns out to be unaccredited — you may be exposed to human trafficking and other illegal activities.
So for your own safety and well-being, make sure that you are transacting with a recruitment agency that is licensed by the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) in the Philippines.
Here is a list of several manpower agencies that are accredited or licensed by the DMW to recruit OFWs for jobs in Saudi Arabia:
- 21st Century Manpower Resources Inc.;
- AAV Talent Training and Management Inc.;
- ABBA Personnel Services Inc.;
- ABC Global Employment and Manpower Services Inc.;
- ABCA International Corporation;
- ABD Overseas Manpower Corporation;
- AB International Placement Inc.;
- Abundant Life International Manpower Services Inc.;
- Achievement Excellent Manpower Agency Co.;
- ADM International Manpower Services Company;
- Admiral Overseas Employment Corporation;
- A. Kanan Manpower Corporation;
- Al-Alamia International Manpower Services;
- Al-Bayan International Manpower Services Co.;
- Al-Habib International Services Corporation;
- Alliance International Recruitment and Placement Services Inc.;
- All Seasons Manpower International Services Inc.;
- Ameinri Overseas Employment Agency Inc.;
- Anchor International Manpower Services Inc.;
- Arab Peninsula Manpower Services Corporation;
- A System International Corporation;
- A-Vantage International Recruitment Corporation;
- Camox Philippines Inc.;
- East West Placement Center Inc.;
- EDI Staffbuilders International Inc.;
- First-Select International Manpower Services Inc.;
- FVJ Overseas Placement Inc.;
- Industrial Personnel and Management Services Inc.(IPAMS);
- Jamal Human Resource Internationale;
- Jemstone Global Recruitment Agency Company Inc.;
- Magsaysay Global Services Inc.;
- Pacific E-Links International Recruitment Corporation;
- Placewell International Services Corporation;
- Pyramids International Human Resources Services Co.;
- Sama International Recruitment Agency Company;
- Speed Employment Manpower Resources Corporation;
- Staffhouse International Resources Corporation;
- Starborne International Promotions and Manpower Corporation;
- Success International Placement Inc.; and
- Worldstar International Manpower Services Corporation.
NOTE: For the complete list of all manpower agencies that are licensed to recruit land-based as well as sea-based OFWs, please see the DMW official website.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
To summarize, here are some commonly asked questions about how to become an OFW in Saudi Arabia:
1. Who are qualified to work in Saudi Arabia?
As mentioned earlier, the qualifications for working in the Kingdom depends on the type of job that you are applying for. This includes having the required educational background, skills, and experience.
That being said, all types of jobs require a working visa. Unless you are a citizen from a country that is part of the GCC, you’ll need a visa to come and work in Saudi Arabia.
2. What are the requirements?
The employer or sponsor is the one responsible for getting the worker’s working visa. Of course, the applicant needs to prepare several documents, including his/her passport, diploma, transcript of record, NBI clearance, medical certificate, training certificate, etc.
3. What are the most in-demand jobs for OFWs?
In Saudi Arabia, the most in-demand jobs for OFWs are those in the following industries: oil and gas, construction, healthcare, domestic work, education, hospitality, tourism, and information technology.
4. How can I become an OFW in Saudi Arabia?
To become an OFW in Saudi Arabia, you’ll need to get in touch with an accredited recruitment agency and a sponsor or employer. The sponsor is responsible for facilitating the documents that you’ll need — such as a working visa and residence permit — to be able to work in the Kingdom.
5. How can I obtain a residence permit?
The application for a resident permit or Iqama is handled mainly by the employer. This includes submitting documents like: passport, signed job contract, letter from employer, medical report, etc.
6. How can I learn more about working in Saudi Arabia?
For more information about working in Saudi Arabia, along with the requirements, fees, and processes involved, you can get in touch with the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Manila, Philippines.
Contact Information: Saudi Arabia Embassy in Manila
Below are the contact details and location map for the Saudi Arabia Embassy in the Philippines, which is based in Manila.
Address: 128 H.V. Dela Costa, Makati, Metro Manila
Telephone: 02 8856 4444
Video: How to Apply for Work in Saudi Arabia?
To learn more about how to apply for work in the Kingdom, check out this video shared by “OFW AKO.” This YouTube channel is managed by an OFW based in Saudi Arabia. In this video, he provides a quick guide for his fellow kababayans who would like to come and work in this oil-rich country:
Before going to Saudi Arabia, it’s important to know more about the country’s culture, practices, and other things that you will encounter once you come and work here. Below are some suggestions and recommendations for you to keep in mind:
- Always carry your Iqama. Once again, be sure to carry your residence permit or Iqama at all times, as Saudi authorities may ask to see it at any given time.
- Dress appropriately. Being a Muslim country, Saudi Arabia requires people to follow certain rules, such as dressing conservatively. For women, this includes wearing a hijab to cover their hair, especially when out in public.
- Avoid public displays of affection. Displays of affection such as kissing and hugging should be restricted to the privacy of your home.
- Observe working days/hours. The typical work week in Saudi Arabia is from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday as the weekend. From a legal standpoint, workers are not allowed to work for over eight hours in a day. Meanwhile, during the holy month of Ramadan, working hours are often reduced to six hours per day.
- Observe public holidays. Each year, workers in the Kingdom are given time off during these public holidays: Saudi National Day, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha. This is in addition to the workers’ holiday leaves, which depend on their respective employment contracts.
NOTE: Christmas is not a recognized holiday in Saudi Arabia. So unless you decided to file a leave on this day, you are generally expected to work if Christmas falls on a working day.
Filipinos have been going to Saudi Arabia for several decades now, ever since the oil industry boomed and began providing numerous jobs for overseas workers. Today, OFWs continue to work in the Kingdom’s oil and gas industry, construction, healthcare, domestic work, tourism, hospitality, education, and other sectors.
If you are keen on becoming an OFW in Saudi Arabia, we hope that reading this guide has been a helpful start! Meanwhile, check out this article to read about a Filipino construction project manager’s experience while living and working in the Kingdom.