IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Saudi Arabia is reducing the validity period of block visas from two years to one year for companies in the private sector.

What does the change mean? Private-sector employers will only have one year to assign their block visas to foreign employees before they expire.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: Block visas.
  • Who is affected: Saudi companies applying for block visas.
  • Business impact: After the approval of block visas, companies will have a shorter time to hire foreign employees.
  • Next steps: Employers should assess their policies to ensure that they will complete the hiring of foreign employees and assign the block visa to an employee within one year.

Background: The Saudi Ministry of Labor announced the change last week, citing a provision in the Labour Code that allows the minister to make changes to improve conditions in the labor market. The ministry grants block visas to companies seeking to sponsor foreign nationals to fill specific job titles. Companies must know the exact position to be filled when applying for a block visa. After obtaining a block visa, the company may then hire a foreign national for the job and apply for a work visa that matches the approved block visa.

BAL Analysis: The change is consistent with recent policies amplifying Saudization rules that encourage private employers to hire Saudi citizens and tightens rules on the hiring of foreign workers.