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Saudi Arabia – Self-Employment

Saudi Arabia is a country with a growing economy and increasing opportunities for self-employment and business start-ups. However, the process of registering as self-employed or setting up a company in Saudi Arabia can be complex, especially for expats. In this article, we will break down how self-employment works for expats in Saudi Arabia, provide a detailed step-by-step guide on how an expat can register as self-employed, explore the possibility of working as a digital nomad in Saudi Arabia, explain how an expat can start a company in Saudi Arabia, and look into any incentives or programs available to encourage expats to become self-employed or set up a company in Saudi Arabia.

How does self-employment work for expats in Saudi Arabia?

Expats in Saudi Arabia can become self-employed and work in a wide range of industries, from consulting and freelance work to starting a business. However, the process of registering as self-employed in Saudi Arabia can be complicated and requires a thorough understanding of the country’s legal and regulatory framework.

One important thing to note is that expats in Saudi Arabia must have a sponsor or a sponsor’s permission to work in the country, whether as an employee or a self-employed individual. This sponsor is usually the employer, but in the case of self-employment, the sponsor can be a business partner, a local agent, or a Saudi national who acts as a sponsor for the self-employed individual.

How to register as self-employed in Saudi Arabia?

Here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how an expat can register as self-employed in Saudi Arabia:

  1. Obtain a residency permit (Iqama): To work in Saudi Arabia, expats need to obtain a residency permit, also known as an Iqama. This requires a job offer from a Saudi Arabian company, as the employer will act as the sponsor for the residency permit.

  2. Get a sponsor: As mentioned earlier, expats in Saudi Arabia need a sponsor to work in the country. If you plan to become self-employed, your sponsor can be a local agent, a Saudi national, or a business partner.

  3. Register for a commercial registration (CR): To start a business or work as a freelancer in Saudi Arabia, you need to obtain a commercial registration (CR) from the Ministry of Commerce and Investment. The CR is a legal document that allows you to conduct business activities in Saudi Arabia. You will need to provide personal and business details, including your name, address, business name, and type of business.

  4. Register for tax: After obtaining your CR, you need to register for tax with the General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT). This involves providing personal and business details and obtaining a tax identification number.

  5. Obtain necessary permits and licenses: Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain additional permits and licenses from various government authorities. These may include a commercial registration certificate, an industrial registration certificate, or a municipal license.

  6. Open a Saudi bank account: To receive payments and pay taxes, your company will need to have a Saudi bank account. You can do this by visiting a bank branch in person and providing identification and proof of address.

Can you work as a digital nomad in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia does not have a specific visa or permit for digital nomads. However, it is possible to work remotely for a company based outside Saudi Arabia or work as a freelancer or consultant for clients outside the country while residing in Saudi Arabia. To do this, expats would need to obtain the necessary permits and visas to live in Saudi Arabia, such as a work visa or residency permit.

How to start a company in Saudi Arabia?

Starting a company in Saudi Arabia as an expat can be a complex process that requires a thorough understanding of the country’s legal and regulatory framework. Here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how an expat can set up a company in Saudi Arabia:


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  1. Determine the type of company: The first step in setting up a company in Saudi Arabia is to determine the type of company you want to establish. There are several types of companies in Saudi Arabia, including limited liability companies (LLCs), joint-stock companies (JSCs), and branch offices.

  2. Get a sponsor: As mentioned earlier, expats in Saudi Arabia need a sponsor to work in the country. For starting a company, the sponsor can be a Saudi national or a local agent.

  3. Obtain a commercial registration (CR): To register your company, you need to obtain a commercial registration (CR) from the Ministry of Commerce and Investment. The CR is a legal document that allows you to conduct business activities in Saudi Arabia. You will need to provide personal and business details, including your name, address, business name, and type of business.

  4. Obtain necessary permits and licenses: Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain additional permits and licenses from various government authorities. These may include a commercial registration certificate, an industrial registration certificate, or a municipal license.

  5. Draft articles of association: You will need to draft articles of association for your company, which outline the objectives, capital structure, and management structure of the company.

  6. Deposit capital: You will need to deposit the minimum required capital for your company into a Saudi bank account.

  7. Register with the General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT): After obtaining your CR, you need to register for tax with the GAZT. This involves providing personal and business details and obtaining a tax identification number.

  8. Register with the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA): If your business involves foreign investment, you will need to register with SAGIA, which is responsible for promoting foreign investment in the country.

  9. Obtain a work visa: Once your company is established, you will need to obtain a work visa or residency permit to work in Saudi Arabia.

Incentives or Programs for Expats in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabian government has launched several initiatives to encourage foreign investment and entrepreneurship in the country. For example, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) offers a range of services to foreign investors, including business matchmaking, investment promotion, and facilitation of investment processes. The government has also introduced several reforms to simplify the process of starting a business and obtaining permits and licenses.

In conclusion, Saudi Arabia offers increasing opportunities for self-employment and business start-ups, but the process of registering as self-employed or setting up a company can be complex, especially for expats. It is important to have a thorough understanding of the legal and regulatory framework in Saudi Arabia and to obtain the necessary permits and licenses before starting a business or working as a freelancer.


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