Assessing travel and visa obligations in Saudi Arabia

When traveling to Saudi Arabia, your nationality and the types of activities you will conduct during your trip will determine whether you may travel lawfully as a business visitor or if you require work authorization. Please seek advice from your immigration counsel if you are uncertain about the specific types of activities that constitute business or work.

Traveling for business

What types of activities may I engage in as a business visitor?

As a business visitor to Saudi Arabia, you may engage in the activities below, depending on your job title. The activities performed should match the purpose of the visit used when applying for the letter of invitation. While this list is not exhaustive and other activities could qualify as business, depending on the previously mentioned circumstances, you may:

  • Attend business meetings or discussions, trade shows, seminars and conferences
  • Buy goods for sale outside the country
  • Visit company facilities and plants


If I qualify as a business visitor, do I need a visa for Saudi Arabia?

Most foreign nationals require a visa to enter Saudi Arabia to engage in business activities. Only nationals of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states (Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the the United Arab Emirates) are eligible for visa waiver status, which allows visitors to enter and conduct business activities in Saudi Arabia. Those ineligible for a visa waiver must apply for a Business Visit Visa from a Saudi Arabian Embassy or Consulate prior to traveling. While Saudi Arabia does offer e-visas and visas on arrival, these visas are only issued for tourist purposes and cannot be used for business travel. Please verify your eligibility for a visa waiver prior to travel.

Working in Saudi Arabia

What types of activities require work authorization?

The activities below, whether paid or unpaid, generally constitute work under Saudi Arabian law. This list is not exhaustive, and many other professional activities are considered work in Saudi Arabia, even if conducted for a short duration.

  • Hands-on technical work
  • Consulting
  • Market integration
  • Repairs and maintenance

In limited circumstances, business travelers with technical job titles may engage in certain hands-on professional activities, though additional eligibility criteria may apply. An individual assessment is required before deciding whether engaging in professional activities as a business visitor is appropriate.


If I am traveling to Saudi Arabia for work, what type of work authorization do I need?

The requirements for work authorization depend on your qualifications, on your profession, on your duration of stay and on whether your employer has an entity in Saudi Arabia. The most common forms of work authorization for Saudi Arabia are:

  • Temporary Work Visit Visa (short-term work authorization)
  • Work Permit and Residence Permit (long-term work and residence authorization)


Is it possible to be exempted from work authorization requirements?

Nationals from eligible GCC member states are not required to obtain work authorization in order to work in Saudi Arabia. However, registrations or other formalities may be required prior to working or residing in Saudi Arabia.

What else should I know?

Inevitably, the legal and strategic considerations impacting visa selection, as well as visa waiver and work authorization eligibility, entail the careful consideration of many factors. We recommend that you consult with your immigration counsel before taking any course of action.

Copyright ©2024 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. Government immigration agencies often change their policies and practices without notice; please consult an immigration professional for up-to-date information. This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. BAL maintains comprehensive immigration information and processing specifics for our clients.