Gulf Labour Markets, Migration, and Population (GLMM) Programme

An international independent, non-partisan, non-profit joint programme of a major Gulf think tank and a globally renowned academic migration centre.
The programme provides data, analyses, and recommendations contributing to the improvement of understanding and management of
Gulf labour migration, population, and labour markets, engaging with and respecting the viewpoints of all stakeholder.

Saudi Arabia: Work visas alloted by nationality group and sex of visa holder (2013)

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Males Females Total
Arab countries 280,175 5,794 285,969
Non-Arab Asian countries 680,539 27,752 708,291
Non-Arab African countries 5,229 3,049 8,278
South America 639 7 646
North America 4,804 630 5,434
Europe 8,626 1,264 9,890
Oceania 633 100 733
Others 34 0 34
Total 980,679 38,596 1,019,275

Source: Ministry of Labour

1. Definitions

The labour visa allows the worker to enter Saudi Arabia. It is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after Ministry of Labour issues its agreement.
In order to employ workers from abroad, the sponsoring company must first file a “Block Visa” request with the Ministry of Labor, requesting pre-approval to sponsor foreign employees.
Once the Block Visa request is approved, the sponsoring company in Saudi Arabia should obtain a visa authorization number and an electronic power of attorney authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia.
Foreign nationals may then apply for work visas through Saudi consular posts in their country of residence. Several documents are required before issuance of work visas, including medical certificate.
Therefore, work visas are more than the actual workers present in the country and granted labour permits, as some eventually do not terminate the procedure, or are rejected at a later stage (entry visa; residency procedures…).

Temporary or seasonal visas are alloted for short-term and limited employment duration, for example for the provision of sevices during the Hajj season in Makkah and Madina, or in agriculture.

2. Institution which provides data

Ministry of Labour of Saudi Arabia (

3. Data availability

Published in Ministry of Labour’s Statistical Yearbooks
MoL Yearbooks (in Arabic, PDF format) are available online at
(Issues 2004 to 2013)

Date of access: July 2015

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