Working in Saudi Arabia as a Healthcare Professional

Nurses, doctors and Allied Health professionals are in demand in the Middle East and wonderful opportunities are available to work and travel in this amazing region. Nurses and health professionals are typically employed on a contract basis for periods of one or two years with opportunities available for renewal on a case by case basis. Contracts are usually on a ‘single status’ basis, this means if you would like to travel with a spouse or dependants you will need to make your own arrangements for accommodation. Exceptions to this may be possible for more senior positions.


Hospitals in Saudi Arabia range, however many have state of the art facilities and technology and provide high levels of clinical care. Nurses are required in most clinical specialities including ICU, Emergency, Acute, Surgical and more.

Happiness Saudi Family Portrait
Beautiful People and Culture


Working in Saudi Arabia as a Healthcare professional


Languages Spoken in Saudi Aradia

The official language is Arabic. English is commonly spoken, and Hindi, Urdu, and Tagalog are also spoken by many of the expatriates who live there. English is the language of operation of all hospitals and translators are available for communicating with patients who do not speak English.



Weather like in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a desert country with, believe it or not, a wide range of temperatures. Riyadh, which is in the centre of the Kingdom and set in the middle of the desert sees the greatest temperature differences with an average low of 8C-21C (46F-70F) in the winter and an average high of 42C (108F) in the summer.


Jeddah is slightly cooler than Riyadh but also more humid thanks to its location along the Red Sea. Jeddah sees an average low of 18C-29C (64F-84F) in the winter and an average high of 37C (99F) in the summer. When you leave the city on your camping/hiking/touring adventures, be sure to bring a heavy sweater. The desert can actually get quite chilly at night.

Beautiful Desert Landscape View In Dammam Saudi Arabia.



Salaries and Staffing Benefits in Saudi Arabia for Healthcare Professionals

Salaries also range significantly are typically 10-20% higher than western countries, however with healthcare professionals becoming more and more in demand globally, salaries have been increasing recently. It is also important to acknowledge that salaries are also set against employee’s nationalities. This might be uncomfortable reading, that healthcare professionals from developing countries receive significantly less compared to their western colleagues.


There are a number of additional benefits that make the total remuneration very attractive including:


  • salaries paid tax free (we recommend that you review the taxation implications with a registered tax professional)
  • furnished accommodation
  • yearly bonuses
  • free flights
  • free recreation services (gym memberships etc)
  • bonus overtime pay
  • six to ten weeks vacation per year
  • free medical and emergency healthcare



Accommodation in Saudi Arabia

Most expatriate staff live in housing on the hospital grounds, or in a private housing complex (commonly called a “compound”). A compound is an area of private property that is like a gated community. The sizes of compounds vary. Some will have only the residential facilities, while others will have pools, fitness facilities, tennis courts, salons, and grocery stores. Like a gated community, you’re free to come and go as you please (bear in mind, however, that some compounds have late-night curfews). People leave the compound to work, shop, visit friends who live on other compounds, attend cultural events (e.g., concerts at embassies), dine out, go sightseeing. Physicians and most senior level positions are entitled to non-shared housing. All other contracts usually receive shared accommodations, with one or (rarely) two other housemates.


Cutlery, dishes, pots, pans, a kettle, and toaster usual come with the apartment, as do basic appliances such as a fridge and stove. Depending on your accommodations, washers and dryers are either in the individual apartment unit or in a communal laundry room (there is no charge). Utilities are usually included, and basic TV channels are included. If you want more channels you can purchase satellite packages that include stations such as ESPN, CNN, BBC, the Movie Channel, etc. Long distance phone calls are not included. Many people view online or download their favourite shows via networks or other services.

Camel Races and more to see and do in Saudi Arabia


Annual Leave in Saudi Arabia

You will not be able to take vacation for the first three months of your contract, as this is your probationary period. After this time, you will be able to make vacation arrangements with your supervisors at the hospital, as you would in any workplace.


While you are waiting to receive your residency permit (igama), which usually takes between 2 and 4 weeks (but can sometimes take months), you may not leave the country. Also, the first three months of employment is a probationary period, during which you will not be able to take any accrued leave/vacation days. After you obtain your residency permit (igama), you will be able to leave and re-enter the country for a short trip that doesn’t use leave days, e.g., for a weekend trip the UAE. You will need an exit/re-entry visa to come and go; these can be purchased individually or as a multiple.


Make sure you plan your vacations well in advance and notice. Many employers allow you to exchange your annual flight to any destination under the value of the flight. This gives you the ability to return home to see the family or visit an entirely different country during your vacation. The number of days of annual leave depends on your nationality. Western healthcare professionals can expect up to 49 vacation days per year.



Healthcare coverage in Saudi Arabia

The hospital will provide any medical treatment and emergency dental procedures you require. In most cases, you will not be covered for basic dental care. Also, if you leave the city to go on vacation or for a day trip, you will not be covered for any medical treatment. Thus, it is a good idea to purchase travel health insurance, when you leave the city in which you are employed, even if it is to travel within Saudi Arabia.



Income tax in Saudi Arabia

There is no income tax deducted in Saudi Arabia. However, your foreign income may be taxed in your home country:

  • Americans are excluded from paying taxes on any amount up to US$105,900 (tax year 2019) if the person was out of the country for at least 330 full days out of 365 days of a consecutive 12-month period. Exclusion amounts are subject to change, so please refer to: Internal Revenue Service; 
  • Canadians have a more complicated situation which involves severing residential ties to Canada (e.g., spouse, dependent children, non-investment property, etc.). For information, please refer to: Canada Revenue Agency’s page on Non-Residents of Canada. 
  • British nationals normally pay UK tax on all their income, whether it’s from the UK or abroad. But there are special rules for UK residents whose permanent home (‘domicile’) is abroad. Whether you’re UK resident usually depends on how many days you spend in the UK. You’re automatically a resident if either: you spent 183 or more days in the UK in the tax year. To work out if you have to pay income tax, go read the most government advise.



Currency in Saudi Arabia

The currency in Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Riyal (also spelled Rial), commonly referred to as the “SR.” The SR has been fixed at a stable rate to the US dollar since the early 1980s, with the rate being: US$1 = SR3.75 / £1 = SR4.82 / CD$1= SR2.84. You are paid monthly, in Saudi Riyals, by direct deposit into a local bank, located either on the hospital site or within easy walking distance.



Opening a bank account

The hospital will help you open a bank account soon after you arrive and after your Igama (permanent residency visa) has been issued. While safe, money in this account, will not earn interest, so you should transfer your money to an account outside Saudi Arabia to earn interest. (Islamic law prohibits earning interest on money; Islamic banking, however, provides another method for making your money work for you without violating Islamic law.)


Since no interest is paid on accounts in Saudi Arabia, most people keep only basic spending money in their Saudi bank account. Instead, people transfer most of their savings to offshore accounts through e-transfers, wire transfers, bank drafts, or whatever is possible through one’s home bank. Internet banking is common. Many ex-pats regularly exchange the money into American Travellers Cheques, however be careful of bringing large amounts of travellers cheques back home, as you maybe questioned about the source of the income and if it was taxed.

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Using credit cards in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is generally a cash society, but credit cards are accepted in major department stores, chain hotels, and major hotel restaurants. Generally, other outdoor souks do not accept credit cards. Occasionally machines have trouble with “chip cards.”



Healthcare coverage in Saudi Arabia

The hospital will provide any medical treatment and emergency dental procedures you require. In most cases, you will not be covered for basic dental care. Also, if you leave the city to go on vacation or for a day trip, you will not be covered for any medical treatment. Thus, it is a good idea to purchase travel health insurance, when you leave the city in which you are employed, even if it is to travel within Saudi Arabia.



Professional registration in Saudi Arabia

You must keep your original professional registration/license active and current while you are working in Saudi Arabia, and have it with you. Nurses, doctors, and allied health professionals also must obtain a Saudi Commission for Health Specialties license. An exam is required.



Visa’s to work in Saudi Arabia

Your employer will request your visa (as well as those for eligible family members) from the hospital and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Obtaining a Saudi work visa is a lengthy and complex process which requires verification of educational and experience credentials, an extensive medical examination, and a police clearance. The process is different for each nationality.


In order to stay in Saudi Arabia long-term, you must obtain a residency visa. Residency visas are arranged by the hospital, and once you receive your residency visa, you will receive an “Igama” which is a residency permit. The Igama is similar in appearance to a driver’s license — it has an identifying digital photo of you and carries your personal identifying information. You should carry it at all times.


Initially, you will enter Saudi Arabia on a temporary work visa that is valid for three months, and which is sponsored by the hospital. Once you arrive, the hospital will ask for your passport to process your Igama. The Igama usually takes between 2-4 weeks to obtain, but can take months. Upon arrival for orientation at your employer, your passport will be held by your employer, while they process your igama (residency permit). Once the igama has been processed, your receive your passport back and commonly held by your employer.


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Tourist Visas for friends and family

You will be allowed to sponsor only close family members (e.g., spouse, children, parents, and siblings). You are responsible for all costs associated with their visit (e.g., visa, flight, accommodations). You are not able to sponsor friends and extended family members.


Saudi Arabia has recently introduced the eVisa that allows tourism. The visa can be applied for online, and takes a couple of weeks to receive. The cost is approximately SR440 (US$117), and is open to citizens of Western countries and some other countries, including the USA, Canada, the UK, Western European countries, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Reef Scene With Butterfly Fish And Diver
Diving in the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia


‘Exit visas” to leave Saudi Arabia

Yes. Your final exit visa will be handled by the hospital. But for vacation purposes, you will need an exit/re-entry visa. A single exit/re-entry visa costs approximately SR200 (US$53) and is valid for a single trip out of the country. A multiple exit/re-entry costs approximately SR500 ($133) and is good for unlimited trips for six months.


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Lifestyle and Day-to-Day Living


Religions practice in Saudi Arabia

Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia. Prayer call occurs five times per day and during this period, shops and restaurants close for about 20 minutes to allow workers to pray. Many expatriates living in Riyadh are from Muslim countries. Although there are also many non-Muslim expatriates (e.g., Christians, Hindus), there are no churches or houses of worship of other faiths in the Kingdom.



Dress Code in Saudi Arabia

For men, all clothing worn in public areas (e.g., outside the hospital grounds and housing complexes) should be conservative. This means no sleeveless shirts, no shorts, etc., in public (sportswear can be worn at men-only fitness facilities) and in private areas. In public areas, jewellery should be limited to a wedding ring and a watch.


Women are required to wear an abaya (a black, lightweight cloak that drapes over your clothing) and to carry a scarf that can be used to cover the hair (if required) when in public areas (e.g., malls, souqs). The scarf and abaya are usually sold as a set; they must be black, but can have coloured embroidery, applique, etc. on them. Women are not required to veil. Abayas (and scarves) can be purchased online,  and can be bought throughout Saudi Arabia. This doesn’t mean that you can’t work out or go to the beach. Western-only private beaches and pools are available, where, of course, bathing suits can be worn. Sportswear can be worn at women-only fitness facilities. Women can wear abundant jewellery. Any type of shoe (e.g., sandals, flip-flops) can be worn publicly. And at home, you can wear whatever you wish. And under your abaya you can wear whatever you wish.


if you are swimming in the women’s-only pool of your compound. But if you are swimming in one of the coastal waters in which men and women of all nationalities swim, a conservative one-piece is best.


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Registering with my country’s embassy or consulate in Saudi Arabia

When travelling abroad one should always register with one’s embassy or consulate. Riyadh is home to all of the government ministries and foreign embassies, including those of the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. Jeddah is the site of many consulates, including those of the United States and Canada. You can also register in advance of going overseas:



Shopping in Saudi Arabia?

The shopping malls house all the international boutiques (with their Prada, Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Boss, etc., designs), as well as larger stores which sell less costly clothes (e.g., GAP, H&M, American Eagle, Zara), and US and European chain department stores (e.g., Saks Fifth Avenue, Debenhams, Harvey Nichols, Marks & Spencer). But if you like to shop, in my view, the most interesting purchases are in the souqs, with their traditional hats, scarves, camel blankets, rugs, brass works, etc.


Trying on clothes in shops can be problematic. In the women’s-only malls, such as the “Ladies’ Kingdom” at the Kingdom Centre Mall in Riyadh, women can try on clothes. In other malls, since most sales clerks are males, if one wants to try on a garment, one must first purchase the garment, then take it to the restrooms, which have toilet sections and change room sections, and try on the garment. If it doesn’t fit, return it — if it does, you’re lucky!


Although you can buy all styles of women’s underwear, if you have a favourite brand/style, I would stock up before relocating. Most people feel that cotton is the most comfortable fabric for the hot climate.


Only recently has Saudi Arabia been allowing female sales clerks in lingerie shops (women had, of course, been the clerks in women’s-only malls). The lingerie shops are now designated “families only” or “women only” — no unaccompanied men allowed. Before the advent of female sales clerks, lingerie shopping could be a challenge, because few women were comfortable discussing things such as their cup size with men …



Bring a variety of cloths for all occasions

You will attend parties and embassy concerts and events, which require the same sort of clothing you’d wear to such events back home, e.g., a cocktail dress. You will hang around by your pool and you will work out, so you will need a bathing suit and gym gear. And because in public (e.g., malls, souqs, restaurants) you will be wearing your abaya, you can wear whatever you want underneath it.


But to deal with the heat (and in Jeddah, the humidity), you may want to add a few lighter garments to your regular clothing collection — perhaps some “wicking” or fast-drying tops or pants, or perhaps a long skirt to let the air circulate around your legs. And you may want to throw in a few longer sweaters or jackets both to help you deal with the omnipresent air conditioning and for conservative cover-up of your hip region. But you don’t need to buy a new wardrobe … unless, of course, you want to.


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Drive a car in Saudi Arabia?

From late June 2018, both females and males (with valid driver’s licenses) can drive. You cannot rent, lease, or purchase a car until you have your igama (residency permit). If you don’t want to drive, there are free shuttle buses to and from your residence to common shopping destinations in the city. Taxis are readily available, and apps such as Uber and Kareem are popular, and have a reputation for being safe.



The working week in Saudi Arabia

Until late June 2013, the weekend was Thursday and Friday. However, a royal decree from June 2013 announced the weekend would be changed to Friday and Saturday, to bring it in line with the other Gulf countries.



Languages spoken at work

Although English is the working language at the hospital, your colleagues come from all over the world, so English may be a second language to many of them. Some patients may speak English, but many speak only Arabic; translators will be available. Hospitals also offer free courses in basic Arabic.


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Social Life


Like anywhere else, the social life in Saudi Arabia is what you make of it. There are organised trips to historical sites, sports competitions, and other recreational activities. Dinner parties, desert trips, and beach parties are common. There are concerts at embassies and expatriate-operated amateur theater and musical ensembles. It must be noted, however, that unmarried couples may not travel or dine together off-compound without being in the company of a married couple (there are many married couples in Saudi Arabia). See our video or article about social life opportunities.


The expatriate community in Saudi Arabia is made up of citizens from around the world: Americans, Canadians, Australians, Kiwi’s, British, German, Irish, Egyptians, Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Malaysians, South Africans, etc. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook estimated Saudi Arabia’s population to be 33 million, of which around 37% are expatriates.



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Drinking alcohol and smoking in Saudi Arabia

Alcohol and products containing alcohol are strictly prohibited by law. (This includes liqueur chocolates!) Bringing them into the country, and/or purchasing or drinking alcohol is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Smoking is legal in Saudi Arabia, but women cannot smoke in public.



Books, CDs, or DVDs in Saudi Arabia

Do not bring books which are critical of Saudi Arabia or which are politically controversial into the country. Pornography is strictly prohibited. Travel guides about Saudi Arabia are completely acceptable. If your books have covers or pictures that may be offensive, remove them. DVDs may be checked at customs.



Food in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia allows expatriates to go on a culinary world tour. In addition to sampling authentic Middle Eastern cuisine (such as tabouleh, hummus, pita, baba ghanoush, etc.), there is Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Mexican, Turkish, and Indian. For a taste of “home,” the standard American chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Dairy Queen are available. Many of the foods in the supermarket will be familiar to you, from ketchup to Twinkies to skim milk. Although produce is readily available at supermarkets, fruit and vegetable souqs (markets) also provide excellent fresh produce. Alcohol and pork products are not permitted.



If you are interested in working in Saudi Arabia as a health professional, you can either use a recruitment agency or apply directly to the employer. You can do this by searching on Endorse Jobs for the latest healthcare jobs in Saudi Arabia.



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