SAUDI ARABIA – Labour Market Testing Requirement Suspended
Effective immediately, the Saudi Ministry of Labor has suspended the requirement for companies intending to hire foreign nationals to first advertise jobs on the Taqat jobs portal before applying for block visas (expatriate quota).
At the same time, the Ministry has announced a fast track visa service for companies who have a high Saudization rate to be able to obtain visas immediately, and has allowed companies in the medium green saudization category to apply for block visas provided that it does not lower the company’s Saudization category. This was previously restricted to the high green and platinum categories only.
Block visas are the primary basis by which companies bring foreign workers to the Kingdom. Under the scheme, Saudi employers must have a block visa approval from the Ministry of Labour, certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with an open position corresponding exactly to the position, nationality and professional qualifications of the applicant. In 2017, the Saudi Ministry of Labor reduced the validity period of block visas from two years to one year. Taqat: Since August 2016, all companies seeking to apply for block visa approval slots have first needed to enter the intended position's details into a national database (Taqat) to advertise the position for up to 45 days (depending on their saudization category), to ensure that there were no locally qualified Saudi nationals who could fill the role. Proof of the lack of suitability of any local applicants (evidence of interviews and justification for acceptance/rejection) was required for the block visa approval process. The Saudization system (Nitaqat) is complex, with companies grouped by industry sector and company size, then ranked into six categories (Premium, High Green, Medium Green, Low Green, Yellow, and Red) of Saudization – the percentage of the company’s workforce that must consist of local workers.
Employers who may be affected are encouraged to contact their immigration specialist for case-specific advice.