The information compiled in the FAQ session is only to be used as a guide and conditions from employer to employer may vary slightly. It is also used mainly for western candidates and further information relating to the specific content may be address to MD Talent Search (info@mdtalentsearch.com).

 

1. General

  1. Q: Demographics of Expatriates living in Saudi Arabia
  2. Q: Religion in Saudi Arabia?
  3. Q: Dress codes in Saudi Arabia?
  4. Q: What is the official language?
  5. Q: Are there restrictions on types of DVD’s, books, magazines or literature in Saudi Arabia?
  6. Q: Is Saudi Safe and Secure?
  7. Q: Can women travel freely without chaperones?
  8. Q: What would happen if a crisis or political incident occurred?
  9. Q: Representation of foreign consulates and Embassies?
  10. Q: Where can I research other topics and local information on the various regions?

2. Employment

  1. Q: What happens to my passport on arrival?
  2. Q: When can I go on Leave?
  3. Q: What are the consequences of breaking my contract?
  4. Q:Hospital Standard and protocols?
  5. Q: How do Licensing issues work?
  6. Q: What about uniforms?
  7. Q: Is overtime permitted and is it paid for?
  8. Q: Will I be covered by medical insurance?

3. Banking and Money issues

  1. Q. Salaries – General
  2. Q: Will I be able to open a bank account?
  3. Q: Will my ATM card from home still work?
  4. Q: Are credit cards accepted readily in Saudi Arabia?
  5. Q: Is the cost of living going to very expensive?

4. Contract and Visa process

  1. Q: Do I need to have a visa to go to Saudi Arabia?
  2. Q: How do I get my residency visa?
  3. Q: How long will it take to obtain my residency visa?
  4. Q: Why do I have to give my passport to the hospital when I arrive?
  5. Q: Can I have visitors in the Kingdom?
  6. Q: Who will arrange my flight to Saudi Arabia?
  7. Q: How does the MD Talent Search recruitment process work?

5. Accommodation and Living

  1. Q: Where will I Reside?
  2. Q: Will I be sharing my apartment/house?
  3. Q: What can I expect to find in terms of furnishings?
  4. Q: What is the voltage in Saudi Arabia?
  5. Q: What kind of entertainment is available?
  6. Q: Keeping fit?
  7. Q: World NEWS, RADIO, TV, newspapers?
  8. Q: Transport in Saudi Arabia?
  9. Q: Will I be able to buy familiar products?
  10. Q: What types of schools are available for my children?
  11. Q: Can I buy alcohol in Saudi Arabia?
  12. Q: How do I make phone calls from Saudi Arabia?
  13. Q: What about an email account?
  14. Q: Where can I access the Internet? Should I bring my own computer?

1. General

  1. Q: Demographics of Expatriates living in Saudi Arabia

    There are around 7 million Expatriates working in Saudi Arabia. Estimates are that two thirds of professionals and 95% of the labor force makes up the workforce. In light of this, there are a huge number of professionals from around the world working and enjoying the expatriate lifestyle and they include: Americans; Australians; British; Canadians; German; Irish; Malaysians; New Zealanders; South Africans;Bangladeshis; Egyptians; Filipinos; Indians; Jordanians; Lebanese; Pakistani; Sri-Lankans etc.

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  2. Q: Religion in Saudi Arabia?

    Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia.  There is a call to Prayer five times per day and during this period; shops and restaurants close depending on the prayer time (20-30 minutes) to allow workers to pray. Although it seems strange you will adapt to the schedules and quickly work around the prayer times. What is nice though is that most of the shops are open until very late at night so you can easily get to the shops after work. Moslem, Hindu and Christian expatriates, are plentiful and welcomed. However, due to the legal framework of the country the Saudi culture lacks the diversity of religious expression, buildings, annual festivals and public events that is seen in countries where religious freedom is permitted.

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  3. Q: Dress codes in Saudi Arabia?

    Another popular myth that is often bandied around and gives enormous concern to potential travellers is the dress code. The general rule of thumb is to be decorous remembering to be respectful of customs and using good common sense!!Public areas (e.g., outside the hospital grounds and housing complexes) require a simple conservative approach which for men includes no sleeveless shirts, no shorts, etc.  Women are required to wear an abaya that can be bought in stores and markets around the country. They in fact come in a number of varieties and fashion finishes and the selection is mind boggling (a dark, lightweight cloak that drapes over your clothing). In certain parts of the country (a scarf that covers the hair when they are in public areas) must be worn – and both should be black. The clothes are predominantly loose and flowing but covering garments are helpful in Saudi Arabia’s desert climate and allows one to feel part of the community.  Non-Muslim expatriate women are not required to veil, there are no burkhas or face covering policies in Saudi. Abaya shopping is part of the orientation programme and lots of fun. Please remember these dress codes and courtesies are just that and Western-only private beaches and pools are available, where, of course, bathing suits can be worn and within your compound and at home you are perfectly free to wear whatever you wish!

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  4. Q: What is the official language?

    Arabic is the official language but English is commonly spoken and tends to be the official language within most of the organizations (certainly in all hospitals) Patient mix will of course be mostly locals and translators are available on site to assist with communicating with patients who do not speak English. Tagalog, Hindi and Urdu are also spoken by many of the expatriates who live there.

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  5. Q: Are there restrictions on types of DVD’s, books, magazines or literature in Saudi Arabia?

    Please be sensible, books which are critical of Saudi Arabia or which are politically controversial will be confiscated at airports.  Pornography is strictly prohibited!

    If books have covers or pictures that may be offensive, best is to remove them. DVDs, laptops etc. may be checked at customs for offensive material.

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  6. Q: Is Saudi Safe and Secure?

    There is little crime and certainly working and travelling with public transport is extremely safe. The Saudis have taken a strong stance in ensuring they do all they can to stamp out any incidents and protect its citizens and work force, though one must take cognizance of the constantly changing political arena.

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  7. Q: Can women travel freely without chaperones?

    Of course!

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  8. Q: What would happen if a crisis or political incident occurred?

    The Saudis are well organized to deal with anything of such a nature and all the Embassies have excellent protocols and procedures to assist foreign nationals immediately.

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  9. Q: Representation of foreign consulates and Embassies?

    Riyadh is home to all of the government ministries and foreign embassies, including those of the United States,Canada; United Kingdom; etc.

    There are consulates in many of the major cities (Al-khobar, Jeddah).

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  10. Q: Where can I research other topics and local information on the various regions?

    There is so much available on various web sites (including: http://wikitravel.org/en/Saudi_Arabia) that even by your first trip to the Kingdom you will be well informed and au fait with cultural and professional issues that the transfer will be seamless and exciting.

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2. Employment

  1. Q: What happens to my passport on arrival?

    When you arrive you will hand your passport to the HR department to have a residency permit (Igama) issued, which usually takes a couple of weeks (but can take up to 3 months). It is customary for the employer to retain your passport while you have your Igama (residence permit), you will not need your passport during your stay and it is usually kept in safe and sound in your personnel department. Do not worry it is very easy to obtain if required.

    However, of course if there is any family or emergency issues you would be perfectly free to return home immediately. The employer is in essence your sponsor and will assist any necessary repatriation deemed to be an emergency.

    The first three months of employment is the probationary period, during which you will not be able to take any accrued leave days.  After you obtain your Igama /residency permit, you are readily free to leave and re-enter the country for short trips providing you have acquired the requisite leave days and there are coverage in your area. Most people enjoy weekend trips to the Bahrain, UAE or neighboring Oman.

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  2. Q: When can I go on Leave?

    Typically an expatriate contract provide between 40 and 54 calendar days of vacation per year depending on the employer.  No vacation can be taken during the first three months of the contract, which is considered the probationary period. Leave applications are reviewed according to the hospital policy and it is always worthwhile to plan ahead and arrange time off well in advance..

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  3. Q: What are the consequences of breaking my contract?

    No contract should be broken lightly and the same applies in Saudi. The mobilization costs for the employer are generally quite high and re-applying is often frowned upon and difficult to negotiate. This means you should take your decision very seriously but should you wish to terminate your contract you may do so in line with Its’ particular terms .

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  4. Q:Hospital Standard and protocols?

    The health care system in Saudi Arabia compares to some of the best centers in the western world. Most of the hospitals employing western staff are accredited by The Joint Commission International(JCI); Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation from Canada(CCSHA) or Australian Health Council Accreditation(ACHSI). Military hospitals treat members of the armed forces and their families.  University teaching hospitals and tertiary-care referral hospitals treat the general public.  Private hospitals treat either specific populations or are strictly for profit.

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  5. Q: How do Licensing issues work?

    As a general rule always keep your license obtained in your home country active and current while you are working in Saudi Arabia, and of course do have it with you!  Nurses, doctors, and allied health professionals also must obtain a Saudi Commission for Health Specialties license.  An exam is sometimes necessary, but you will have to provide certain documents.

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  6. Q: What about uniforms?

    Uniforms are provided in different quantities and styles and all the information will be in the relevant contract. Remember to bring your own shoes as although you can buy running shoes it’s best to have your own comfortable pair on arrival!

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  7. Q: Is overtime permitted and is it paid for?

    Contracts generally state overtime is at 1.5, Saudi Labour Law counts your days off as paid days.

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  8. Q: Will I be covered by medical insurance?

    Employees are eligible to receive medical care in Saudi Arabia. However, certain things are not covered like: cosmetic surgery, Basic Dental, Optometry is not provided. It is always recommended that you consider an additional travel policy if you travel outside Saudi Arabia.

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3. Banking and Money issues

  1. Q. Salaries – General

    Salaries are usually paid into the local currency the Saudi Riyal, commonly referred to as the “SR”.  The SR is pegged to the US dollar, and the US exchange rate is fixed at US$1 = SR3.75.

    Salaries are not subject to local taxes, and are paid monthly. However, it is important that you check your individual situation with a tax accountant as your foreign income may be taxed in your home country.

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  2. Q: Will I be able to open a bank account?

    The employer will assist in opening your account and your salary will be paid into this monthly. Interest is not earned and most people transfer their excess funds to an investment account off shore and there is plenty of information and options tailored to your preference or individual needs. Access to the Internet makes transfers into an offshore account very simple worldwide.

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  3. Q: Will my ATM card from home still work?

    Yes. ATM machines accept cards from all over the world via systems like; Visa, MasterCard, American express, Cirrus etc. You can also get an ATM card for your local Saudi account.

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  4. Q: Are credit cards accepted readily in Saudi Arabia?

    All major credit cards are accepted though of course if you are shopping in the local markets or soukhs it is best to have cash and enjoy the culture of bargaining for your best price!!!

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  5. Q: Is the cost of living going to very expensive?

    Local goods are very reasonably priced while imported brands may be a bit more expensive.

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4. Contract and Visa process

  1. Q: Do I need to have a visa to go to Saudi Arabia?

    Yes.  MD Talent Search 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 every country and we will review the process with you for your particular situation.

    * Married-status contracts, which are generally restricted to physicians and senior administrative positions, including dependents. If Married status are approved you will be expected to join initially on your own, until you have received you IQAMA (Work Permit) before you will be allowed to sponsor your family. This process can take up to two months

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  2. Q: How do I get my residency visa?

    The employer arranges your Igama which is your residency visa and is similar to a driver’s license with a photo ID and should be carried on your person at all times.

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  3. Q: How long will it take to obtain my residency visa?

    This process can be a couple of weeks but we always err on the side of a conservative estimate of around 8 weeks.

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  4. Q: Why do I have to give my passport to the hospital when I arrive?

    You must give the hospital your passport, so that they can obtain your Igama.

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  5. Q: Can I have visitors in the Kingdom?

    Immediate family members will qualify for visitor’s status

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  6. Q: Who will arrange my flight to Saudi Arabia?

    MD Talent Search will arrange all the details with the hospital and arrange your flight from your point-of-hire to the city where you will be working.  The hospital pays for your flight and will have a preferred airline and route negotiated with their own travel agency.

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  7. Q: How does the MD Talent Search recruitment process work?

    Please see our recruitment process outlined on our Application Process page.

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5. Accommodation and Living

  1. Q: Where will I Reside?

    Most  Employees are eligible for with furnished housing within the Hospital compound complete with basic appliances like refrigerator, air-condition, telephone, stove, oven, dish washer, beds etc. less otherwise. This is referred to as a “compound”.  A compound is an area of private property that is similar to a gated community.  Compounds vary in size though all are well appointed with modern facilities; there may be some that are purely residential, while others will have pools, fitness facilities, tennis courts, salons, and grocery stores.  This secure yet communal lifestyle (bear in mind, however, that some have late-night curfews) really assists new arrivals to settle and learn the ropes quickly and easily. Visiting friends in other compounds readily expands the social network, and there are many sporting and cultural events organized throughout the year!

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  2. Q: Will I be sharing my apartment/house?

    Physicians and most senior administrative positions are entitled to non-shared housing.  All other contracts receive either single or shared accommodations depending on the contract or availability, with a maximum of two other housemates.

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  3. Q: What can I expect to find in terms of furnishings?

    Cutlery, dishes, pots, pans, a kettle, and toaster come with the apartment, as do basic appliances such as a fridge and stove.  Sometimes, washers and dryers are either in the individual apartment unit or in a communal laundry room (there is no charge). Utilities are 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. Internet connections are easily available.

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  4. Q: What is the voltage in Saudi Arabia?

    The voltage can be either 120 and/or 220 volts depending on the accommodations.

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  5. Q: What kind of entertainment is available?

    Life in Saudi Arabia like most places in the world is what you make it and can be filled with many different activities that include visiting historical sites, sporting events, and some of the best culinary delights around!  Dinner parties, 4×4 outings, desert camping, and beach parties are held almost every weekend.  Embassies host receptions regularly and there is a strong amateur dramatic society to fulfill your creative side.

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  6. Q: Keeping fit?

    You will be amazed at the variety of facilities available, there is something for everyone, Athletic events, include, tennis, running, rugby, and soccer.  Popular marathons and weekly runs in the desert Has Runners bring the enthusiastic and the super-fit together for plenty of fun. Private Fitness clubs have sprung up everywhere but, be wary, they can be costly.  The residential pool facilities and tennis courts freely available on the hospital grounds or in the compound are the most common choice. There are grass and sand golf courses, such as at the Intercontinental Hotel (where both men and women play).  Additionally for women, there are women’s clubs such as the Canadian Women club and the American Women club.

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  7. Q: World NEWS, RADIO, TV, newspapers?

    No worries there are numerous radio and TV channels including cable with dedicated movie, sports and news  available 24 hours per day. In addition, there are three daily English papers: Arab News, Saudi Gazette, and Riyadh Daily.  Popular and easy of course is ordering online from websites such as Amazon.com.

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  8. Q: Transport in Saudi Arabia?

    Limousines, taxis, shuttles abound that are either free or extremely well priced and affordable. Women are not permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia, but the hospital provides transport from your residence to work and back as well as local shopping malls throughout the city. The official taxis are the recommended means (the official licensed taxis in Saudi Arabia are white).

    Men, are permitted to drive and can apply for a driver’s license when in Saudi Arabia and  you will find good deals on vehicles available from  people  ready to return home.

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  9. Q: Will I be able to buy familiar products?

    The range and variety of retailers and goods compares well with most big cities around the world and there will be very few brands of food or clothing that will be difficult to find.

    • Pharmacies are well stocked though you are advised to bring your own medication if you have a chronic ailment as often the generics or patented medicines may vary.
    • Designer clothing is in abundance but there are limited change rooms for ladies i.e. these are in the women only section of large department stores. This means you should check the store’s policy on exchanging or returning items! Most of the stores allow you to fit at home and exchange if the size is correct though

    Probably best to bring your own swimsuit though there is no shortage of choice or style!

    • Computers and electronics are well priced and all the premium brands available.
    • Local artifacts, beautiful carpets and exquisite gold jewellery in malls and the markets or soukhs will provide hours of pleasure for the enthusiastic shoppers

    Restaurants and Bistros

    Gastronomic delights from both Middle Eastern cuisine and International selections, the Saudi’s know how to enjoy their food and eating out is considered a very social and family time and the restaurants and pavement cafes are always filled with people enjoying the wonderful menus on offer. Most of the restaurants are very well priced…….

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  10. Q: What types of schools are available for my children?

    There are a number of private schools available up to grade 12 and there both the British and American curriculum available, though it is expensive and really only recommended for those expatriates who qualify for assistance for children’s education.

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  11. Q: Can I buy alcohol 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. Cigarettes are still very popular and inexpensive and all the main international brands are available.

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  12. Q: How do I make phone calls from Saudi Arabia?

    Most Cell phones will work in the Kingdom and phone cards are available in the malls as well as many hospitals will have them on offer on site.

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  13. Q: What about an email account?

    It is recommended that you register for a free email account such as Gmail or Hotmail before you leave home.

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  14. Q: Where can I access the Internet? Should I bring my own computer?

    You can access the Internet from the hospital, and some housing, depending on time and availability. All Internet traffic is processed through centralized servers that filter content that is contrary to Islamic values, so some sites will not be available (particularly those with content that is sexually explicit, religious, or violent). It is recommended that if you have a laptop to bring it with, otherwise you could easily purchase one in Saudi as they are relatively cheap.

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