What is Iqama in Saudi Arabia? A Complete Guide
An Iqama is a residence permit that allows expatriates to work and live legally in Saudi Arabia. It is one of the important documents for expats in the KSA, as it serves as proof of their identity and legal status. In this article, we will explain what an Iqama is, why it is important, and how to apply for it.

What is an Iqama?

Iqama Card what is iqama

Iqama is a small card with personal information like name, date of birth, nationality, occupation, sponsor or company name, and expiry date. It also has a unique 10-digit number used for various purposes, such as banking, health care, education, and travel. An Iqama is issued by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) after the expatriate gets a work permit from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD).

An Iqama differs from a visa, which is only valid for a limited period and does not grant the right to work or live in Saudi Arabia. A visa is required to enter the country, while an Iqama must stay and work there.


Why is an Iqama important?

An Iqama is essential for expatriates in Saudi Arabia, as it enables them to access various services and benefits, such as

  • Opening a bank account
  • Getting a SIM card
  • Registering a vehicle
  • Applying for a driving license
  • Enrolling children in school
  • Getting medical treatment
  • Traveling within the country or abroad
  • Renewing passport or visa
  • Transferring sponsorship or changing profession
  • Without an Iqama, expatriates may face difficulties or penalties, such as fines, imprisonment, deportation, or a ban from re-entry.
  • How to apply for an Iqama?

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How to apply for an Iqama?

To apply for an Iqama, expatriates need to have a local sponsor who can be an individual or a company. The sponsor applies and securing the work permit and Iqama for the expatriate. The sponsor also bears the costs and fees associated with the process.

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The general steps to apply for an Iqama are:

  • Get a medical report from an approved hospital or clinic
  • Submit the required documents to the MLSD, such as passport, visa, employment contract, photos, etc.
  • Pay the fees for the work permit and Iqama.
  • Receive the work permit from the MLSD.
  • Submit the work permit to the MOI.
  • Receive the Iqama from the MOI.

Time for issue Iqama:

The process has no fixed duration, depending on the visa type, profession, and sponsor. The validity of the Iqama is usually one or two years, depending on the Iqama Profession. The Iqama must be renewed before it expires to avoid fines or penalties. You can renew your IQama before 6 months of expiration.


An Iqama is a vital document for expatriates who want to work and live in Saudi Arabia. It proves their identity and legal status in the country and allows them to access various services and benefits. To get an Iqama, expatriates need a local sponsor who can apply and secure the work permit and Iqama for them. The process involves obtaining a medical report, submitting documents, paying fees, and receiving the work permit and Iqama from the relevant authorities.

Abid Latif is a highly experienced and knowledgeable professional specializing in Saudi Arabia's laws, regulations, and tech. He has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for over 15 years and deeply understands the country's legal system, immigration policies, banking system, and telecom industry.



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