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 issued by sector of economic activity (private sector only) (2015-2018)

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Agri., Forest, Hunting & Fishing Mines, Oil, Gas & Quarries Manufacturing industries Electricity, Gas & Water Construction Retails & Hotels Transports & Storage Finance, Insurance, Real estate services & Businesses Collective, Social, & Personal services Other activities TOTAL
2015 163,090 3,256 127,122 1,877 1,034,460 220,309 48,076 22,905 316,985 93,211 2,031,291
2016 79,551 1,922 83,494 973 759,137 159,761 36,042 7,956 274,303 574 1,403,713
2017 46,530 672 41,575 180 323,611 46,424 6,120 1,732 221,889 30,102 718,835
2018 54,877 1,847 33,368 275 238,877 40,843 13,156 3,916 167,453 2,713 557,325

Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Development/ GAStat
1. Definitions

The labour visa allows the worker to enter Saudi Arabia. It is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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, 1. work visas reflect a given year/quarter’s new entries of workers to Saudi Arabia and 2. work visas issued are more than the workers effectively entering the country a given year/ quarter,
as some eventually do not terminate the procedure, or are rejected at a later stage (entry visa; residency procedures…).

Totals of visas issued per year may differ slightly between publications, due to variations in the periods of reference taken (Hijri vs Gregorian years).

2. Institution which provides data 

Ministry of Labour, now Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD)

3. Data availability 

The present data is published in the General Authority for Statistics’ (GAStat) Statistical Yearbook 2018, chapter 11 “Labour and Social Security”

Last date of access: December 2019.

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