The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) permits foreign nationals to live and work in Saudi Arabia and on its shores through the Iqama permit. This is a national residency/employment permit, issued by the Ministry of Interior. To get the Iqama, a person needs a sponsor in the Kingdom, usually the employer, who files the application on behalf of the employee, within 90 days of the latter’s arrival in the KSA.
An Iqama is important as a proof of residence/employment; mandatory in opening bank accounts, getting a house on rent, registering for utilities and so on. It usually takes around 1-3 weeks for getting an Iqama approval from the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Labour and Social Development.
How to Check Iqama Status Online?
1. Finding Your Iqama Number
There will be a 10-digit numeric combination on the Iqama card. It may be at the bottom centre of the front page or below your picture. This is your Iqama number, which will help you search for your Iqama status online on the website of the Ministry of Interior, Saudi Arabia.
2. Checking Your Iqama Status
You can check your Iqama status online by following a few simple steps:
1. Go to the official website of the KSA Ministry of Interior
2. Change the language to English, if you cannot read Arabic
3. Go to the “Passports” section, from the menu tabs
4. Click on “Query Iqama Expiry Service” in the dropdown list
5. Choose Integrated eServices for Individuals
6. Create your login credentials and then enter your username, password and the numeric Iqama number to login.
7. You could be asked to submit a 4-digit verification code, which you will receive on your registered mobile number.
8. Click on “Query Iqama Expiry Service”
9. Enter your Iqama number and the random generated code, click on “View”
10. Your Iqama validity status will be shown.
3. Checking Your Iqama Validity
You will be able to see whether your Iqama status is valid or expired, through the colour on the dates mentioned. Red means that your Iqama is no longer valid. An expired Iqama is a grave concern and attracts hefty fines. The employer must put up your Iqama for renewal a few days before it has expired. Being caught working without a valid Iqama can lead to prosecution.
4. Different Methods to Get a Iqama
There are various routes to get an Iqama in Saudi Arabia. The first one is through your employer. Some people also apply for Iqama through a study visa or student visa. An Iqama holder can act as a sponsor for their family members to procure Iqama. These are “Iqama for Dependents,” and cannot be used to work in Saudi Arabia.
How to Check Iqama Status Outside KSA?
Through the Iqama number, visa number or the passport number, it is possible for checking the status anywhere outside KSA. After logging into the Ministry of Interior website, you can follow the usual steps and then click on “Query Iqama Expiry Service” in the “Passports” section. After that, you will be redirected to the Absher portal, where you will need to click on “Integrated e-Services for Individuals.”
However, if you are an Iqama holder and you have exited Saudi Arabia with plans to re-enter again, your employer will have to obtain an exit/re-entry permit from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior.
Transferable Iqama FAQs
1. Can Iqamas be transferred?
Yes, Iqamas that are “transferable” can be transferred by the present employer to another employer, if you change your job. This provides a competitive advantage, as most employers would prefer candidates with transferable sponsorship, rather than having to apply for a new Saudi Arabia work visa each time. The transferable status depends on the employer. The employer can also send you back to your own country, after termination of employment, if they want.
2. How to Transfer Iqama Sponsorship in KSA Online?
The employer will first need to create a request for transfer of sponsorship through the company’s account. This request needs to be sent to the Ministry of Labour (MLSD). It should be done within your notice period and your employer will submit a copy of your valid Iqama with the application.
Your new employer needs to accept this request for transfer of sponsorship, filed in the MLSD system. If they accept it, your Iqama will be transferred to a new sponsor. It is worth knowing that an employee can request for transfer of sponsorship, without the permission of the employer/kafeel, under certain conditions, such as:
- If the sponsor belongs to the “Red” nitaqat category
- If the sponsor company does not provide an Iqama within 3 months of the employee’s arrival in the KSA
- If the employee has not been paid salary over 3 months under the Wage Protection System
- The Iqama has expired for more than a month
- If the employee reports a commercial cover-up in their organisation
- If the employer has been absent from the court case filed by the employee
- If the court grants approval to the employee for the transfer of sponsorship.
In case, you have not been paid your salary for a long time or you have had to go to court to settle matters, you can transfer your Iqama sponsorship from the Ministry of Labour website, by creating your own account.
3. How to Check the Iqama Transfer Status?
Sponsorship transfer takes place in two phases: first in the Labour Office, through the Ministry of Labour, and then through the Jawazat, under the Ministry of Interior.
- The first step is to check the Iqama transfer status on the Ministry of Labour website, through the Labour Office Service inquiry. Click on the “Transfer the Expatriate Worker Service” in the dropdown list of service type. Enter Iqama number and verification code to check the status.
- When your new employer accepts the request, this has to reflectthe name of your employer in the Absher account. After that, you will have to pay the fee for your transfer of sponsorship.
Iqama Colour/Nitaqat Information
The Nitaqat system, established in 2011 by the Ministry of Labour, refers to the rate of Saudization in an establishment or a company. For expats working in the KSA, the Nitaqat colour is extremely important, as it represents the health of the company that employs them. It can be a decisive factor in getting a job with a company in the KSA, being able to renew your Iqama status at the soonest, amount of fees you pay or being able to transfer your Iqama.
The Nitaqat colour of a company can be checked on the Ministry of Labour website, using the border number, Iqama number or passport number. After entering any of these three, you can see the Iqama colour status, the company’s legal status and other details, such as your full name, work permit number and employment status.
Here’s what the colours actually mean.
Red Colour on Nitaqat Meaning
If your company shows a red nitaqat colour it means:
- You cannot change profession
- Issuing of new visa is prohibited for new expats
- Your visa cannot be transferred
- Your Iqama cannot be renewed
- Employees can move to green nitaqat companies
- Your company cannot accept employees from another company.
Yellow Colour on Nitaqat Meaning
If less than 7% of the company’s workforce consists of Saudi citizen, they fall under this category. This means:
- You can be issued a visa only when two expats leave the company
- If you complete 6 years of service, your work permit cannot be renewed
- No Iqama transfer from other sponsors is permitted
- Employees can move to green companies
- You cannot change your profession or transfer your visa.
Green Colour on Nitaqat Meaning
Companies with 12% Saudi workforce fall in the green category. This means:
- You can apply for a new Saudi visa once every 2 months
- Changing of profession is allowed in jobs that are not restricted to Saudi Arabian workers
- Companies get 6 months grace period after expiry of revenue certificates
- You can renew your Iqamas before 3 months of expiry
- Transfer of sponsorship from other red and yellow category companies is allowed.
Platinum Colour on Nitaqat Meaning
Companies with over 40% of their workforce consisting of Saudi citizens are categorized as Platinum. This means:
- Companies can hire anyone from any country
- Visa processing gets easier and can be done online
- Can change to professions restricted for Saudi workers
- Saudi Visas and the Iqama can be transferred easily.
How to Renew your Iqama Online?
Although the process to renew an Iqama is completed by the employer, you might have to fulfil some obligations, such as payment of fees, going through a medical examination and paying the fees for your dependents, if applicable.
Large companies usually pay the fees for their employees. This can amount to SAR 650, while SAR 8,400 to SAR 9,600 is the fee for the work permit (Maktab e Amal), to be paid along with the Iqama fee. An amount of SAR 500 is paid on an average for medical insurance. In total, an average of SAR 10,000 is paid by medium to large companies per year per expat employee.
Small companies facing a financial crisis may ask you to pay this fee, in which case, the fee could be around SAR 1,350 per year. Fees for Iqama for dependents are also collected at the time of renewal, which you will need to pay. If, for any reason, the Iqama renewal has been delayed, a penalty of SAR 1,000 is applicable.
You could be asked to go through a medical check-up at authorised clinics, depending on the country of your origin.
After this, you can ask the HR department of your company to initiate the renewal process online, which takes around a day or so. You will be notified by SMS, if you are registered with Absher. You can also go to the Ministry of Interior website and click on Iqama Renewal under the “Passports” section.
How to Check Iqama Renewal Status Online?
To see whether your Iqama has been renewed, simply follow these steps to check your Iqama expiry date.
- Go to the official website of the Ministry of Interior, Saudi Arabia
- Go to the “Passports” section on the main menu page, and click on “Iqama Renewal”
- Click on “Integrated eServices for Individuals” to be redirected to the Absher portal
- Create your login ID and password, if you do not have one.
- Sign-in with your login credentials.
- Enter the 4-digit verification code sent to your registered mobile number and click on Click on “Query Iqama Expiry Service”
- Enter your Iqama number and the randomly generated code.
- Click on “View” to see your expiry date.
Your date should have been extended, which will be reflected by green. This means your Iqama has been renewed. Red means that the Iqama status is still expired.
Iqama Renewal Process and Restrictions: FAQs
1. What if my Iqama has expired?
An Iqama has to be renewed every year, but your company can renew it 1 to 3 months prior to the expiry date. Immediately notify your employer about the expiry, if you plan to continue with the employment. In case you do not, inform 90 days prior to expiry. Upon intimation, your company will renew your Iqama online through the Absher Business portal.
2. Can a person exit the country with an expired Iqama?
Expats can now get their final exit visa even with an expired Iqama. This is possible only if the Iqama has expired less than 30 days ago. The employer can file for the final exit visa for the employee through the Absher portal.
3. What is the age limit for a Iqama renewal?
An Iqama renewal is permitted only for employees lower than 60 years of age. Companies can offer end of service benefits to employees aged 60 and above.
4. Can Iqama be renewed if the company is in the Red or Yellow category?
An Iqama can be renewed only if the company’s category is green or platinum. Those who fall in the yellow category have to wait longer. An Iqama gets renewed automatically once the company gets back to the green category. It is very difficult for companies in the red category to procure Iqama renewals.
5. How long does it take to renew an Iqama?
If all the requisite fees have been paid, medical formalities completed and the company Nitaqat category is green or platinum, renewal can happen within minutes. At the most, it can take a day or so. Companies can easily renew an Iqama through the online Absher business portal.