Government & Law

Iqama: getting your identification in Saudi Arabia

Getting your Iqama in Saudi Arabia is extremely important because it is your proof of permission to live and work in the Kingdom.


By Valentine Marie

Updated 8-1-2024

Once you have arrived in Saudi Arabia, you will want to get an Iqama as soon as possible. This ID document allows you to sign rental agreements, enter government buildings, and even get your first Saudi SIM card. This helpful article walks you through the ins and outs of getting your ID finalized in the Kingdom; for both yourself and your family.

It includes the following sections:

Iqama in Saudi Arabia

The Iqama is your official identification document in Saudi Arabia. In order to work in the Kingdom, you need to have a local sponsor and this document is proof that you are legally employed (or attached to someone who is).

Saudi ID card

You should always carry your Iqama with you as it serves as both your residence and work permit. It is a small, stiff rectangular card, and is issued by the Ministry of Interior. The ID will include your name, photo, nationality, and date of birth, as well as your nationality, employer, and 10-digit ID number.

Who needs an Iqama in Saudi Arabia?

All expats living in Saudi Arabia, from children to adults to the elderly, need an Iqama. If you are planning to bring over your family, you will first need to get this sorted out – then you will be able to sponsor your spouse and/or children. It is also important to know that Iqamas must be renewed every year.

How to apply for an Iqama in Saudi Arabia

The good news is that your employer is responsible for handling most of the paperwork and the cost of sponsoring you. Your employer will begin the paperwork while you are still in your home country and you will need to provide them with a copy of your passport, two to four passport-sized photos, and a medical certificate showing a clean bill of health.

Requirements for an Iqama in Saudi Arabia

Once all the paperwork goes through, you will be issued a Saudi work visa, which allows you to enter Saudi Arabia. Once you have arrived, your employer has 90 days to complete the remaining paperwork and obtain your Iqama. During this time, you will have to do another medical exam – the Iqama medical – at an approved medical center, to confirm your good health.

Chest x-ray

You will also have to have blood and urine tests, as well as a chest x-ray, and perhaps even provide a stool sample. Unfortunately, if you test positive for HIV, you will be deported. You can check the status of your Iqama medical on the Ministry of Health website.

Once your Iqama has been approved, you can apply to sponsor your family. Even though you will be the official sponsor, your employer will be helpful in the process, so you can consult them for advice. Iqama processing times vary, but they can range from one day to four weeks. Once you have got everything, go to your local Passport Office (Jawazat) to submit your application.

Why do you need an Iqama?

You will need to show your Iqama to do almost everything in the Kingdom. This includes the following:

  • Opening a bank account
  • Renting an apartment or a car
  • Getting a SIM card
  • Signing up for internet access
  • Identifying yourself when requested

Temporary ID in Saudi Arabia

Both you (or the person employed) and the family members that you sponsor have 90 days after entering the Kingdom to get their Iqamas. This is ample time to complete the process, and in the meantime, you should carry your passport, or a copy, with you as identification.

Visitor holding a Russian passport

What to do if you lose your Iqama in Saudi Arabia

If you lose your Iqama, you should inform your sponsor immediately. You should then go to your local police station, where you will need to write a letter (on your company’s letterhead) explaining how you lost it. Try to take these first two steps within 24 hours, because then there is a good chance you won’t get the SAR 1,000 fine for your first offense.

Once you have reported it to the police, you will get a Police Report that either you or someone from your company will take to the Passport Office to apply for a replacement. They, or you, will also need a copy of your Iqama, your original passport (and copy), two passport-sized photos, a completed Lost Iqama Form, and the fee for the fine. They should be able to issue your replacement quite quickly.