Saudi Arabia Blocks Expats From 12 Work Sectors

In a series of phased changes to employment legislation starting September 2018 and running to January 2019, Saudi Arabia will prevent expats from being employed in 12 sectors. These are mainly retail-based roles, with an aim to boost employment opportunities for the Saudi population.

This will be a blow to many foreign nationals who regularly seek work in Saudi Arabia, but it’s a considered move to progress the economy and improve prospects for the younger generations.

The changes will be introduced in three phases beginning in September, with several occupations and activities being affected during each stage. The aim is to ease the unemployment figures in Saudi Arabia by the target date of 2020. There are many countries surrounding the Gulf state from which expats regularly travel to seek employment, currently estimated to total around 9 million people from over 100 countries. This will affect all current expatriates within Saudi Arabia who will be forced to leave the country when the changes come into effect, or may seek to amend their sponsorship and switch to an unrestricted sector.

Which sectors will be affected?

The sectors include:

From September 11th 2018:

  • Car and motorbike showrooms
  • Ready made clothes stores
  • Home and office furniture stores
  • Home appliances and kitchen utensils stores

From November 9th 2018:

  • Electronics stores
  • Watches and clocks stores
  • Optics stores

From January 7th 2019:

  • Medical equipment and supplies stores
  • Building material stores
  • Auto spare parts stores
  • Carpet selling stores
  • Sweet shops

Why are Saudi Arabia making these changes?

A gradual approach has been attempted over the last few years, but progress has been slow. This has forced a bolder and more structured programme of changes. This, along with the planned increased in the “expat levy” imposed on all foreign workers in the way of taxes will make it more difficult for those wishing to settle there. This also includes a dependency fee for any expatriates who have their family living with them in Saudi Arabia. The fact that more and more Saudi woman are also taking to the workplace in recent times has put a further burden on the state to provide jobs for their citizens.

Whether keeping these jobs available exclusively for Saudi nationals will help retool the economy will only become apparent after an uncertain transition period. With a large amount of resident expats leaving the country in a relatively short time, it will feel like a big change, but with a surge of available positions on the jobs market, the hope is that retailers won’t struggle to keep their ships sailing smoothly and can fill the job roles quickly.


If you are moving to Saudi Arabia and you will not be affected by these changes, we can help legalise all of your documents for your Residence Visa and Work Permit. Get in touch via WhatsApp, use our live chat system or full our form in for a quotation and further information on the processes involved:

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Melanie Clarke
Melanie is a Digital Marketer and TEFL Specialist at Vital Consular. Before taking up a Marketing role, she spent 3 years building up a rich knowledge of global legalisation processes on the operations team. When she's not working, Melanie enjoys attending music events and pursuing many creative interests including screen printing and merchandise design.
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