Understanding Iqama: Your Saudi Residence Permit

The term Iqama refers to the residence ID in Saudi Arabia. It is similar to the green card in the United States. Anyone who wishes to work and live legally in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia must secure Iqama ID within 90 days of stay. Find out how first timers can apply for Saudi Iqama.

What is Iqama?
Iqama is the Saudi Arabia’s residence permit. It is the Kingdom’s ID card for all nationalities who wish to work and live permanently or temporarily in Saudi Arabia. Iqama is not intended for business trips and international travel. The validity of Iqama is variable, ranging from 6 months to 7 years depending on the worker’s agreement with the employer. The residence permit is renewable every 2 years.

Iqama is a legal document and a requirement to be carried by an expat all the time. A person without Iqama is considered an illegal resident. Iqama is needed for nearly all transactions during one’s stay at the Kingdom including setting up a bank account, getting a license and applying for visas. Check points may also require a person to show his or her Iqama.

What can be found in an Iqama?
In the Iqama you will find the following details:

> Photograph
> Name of the expat – both in Arabic and English names
> ID Number – both in Arabic and English texts
> Date of expiry ‘ once expired, Iqama card needs to be renewed. Otherwise, hefty penalty fee applies. As a rule, any costs pertaining to Iqama renewal should be shouldered by the employer.
> Profession of the card holder

Make sure to produce and keep copies of your Iqama to get ready for any possible loss. In case of lost Iqama, a penalty fee of 500 SR will be enforced.

How to get an Iqama
The first thing expats should think of when arriving at the Kingdom is getting one’s Iqama, that is within 90 days. Filing beyond the expected period equates to imposition of penalty fees. It is worth-noting that getting Iqama is a responsibility of employer and he is expected to pay all related expenses for the procurement of the worker’s resident’s ID.

When getting Iqama, proceed to approved medical center of the region for examination test. Bring the original passport and other requirements such as id passport sized photos and fees. Results of the tests will be sent directly to the Ministry of Interior Database via online.

Requirements for Iqama application

Finger printing at the passport department. (AN Photo)
Finger printing at the passport department. (AN Photo)

The following are requirements needed to file for Saudi Iqama:
-Iqama form
-Medical reports, test results
-Health insurance
-Biometrics (done at the airport)
-Payment: SR 500 for 1 year, SR 1000 for 2 years Iqama

Upon the receipt of the Iqama, double check the name in English with the name in Arabic. It should be likewise in correct spelling. In the event of misspelled name, return it back for rectification of details. To distinguish expats, Muslims are given with green Iqama while dark brown for Non-Muslims.

How to check for Iqama validity
You can check expiration date of your Iqama through the Iqama Expiry Service of the Ministry of Interior.

Be wary that you should not take with your Iqama when exiting the Kingdom and should be surrendered to your sponsor or employer in exchange of your passport.

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