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Retirement for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: October 2014

Saudi Arabia is not a popular country for expatriates to retire to. This is probably due to the restrictive lifestyle under the austere Islamic laws and the Government's tight rules on immigration. If you choose to retire in Saudi Arabia, bear in mind that you will need to get a visa to stay in the country.

The Saudi Arabian government's immigration policies do not encourage expats to live in the country once they retire. The authorities do not provide any facilities such as a retirement visa for potential expat retirees. Though family reunification is possible, it is not always guaranteed for spouses of Saudi citizen, especially if they are not Muslim. Expatriates living in this country must hold a work visa backed by employment contracts and the sponsorship of their employers. This visa is tied to a particular job, and once that finishes, the visa is no longer valid. Furthermore, there is no route to citizenship via naturalization. Hence most expatriates leave the kingdom before they retire.

Healthcare is another major consideration when choosing to retire in a different country. The healthcare system in Saudi Arabia is very good; medical services for citizens and expatriates working in the Kingdom are free of charge. Non-working foreign nationals are required to pay for public medical services. Private hospitals often provide better facilities and services and the medical staff are normally trained in Western, developed countries. Most expatriates prefer seeking help in private hospitals. However, these are costly and you should make sure you have proper health insurance cover before moving to Saudi Arabia.

There is no state pension scheme for expatriates in Saudi Arabia. Most expatriates living in Saudi Arabia are covered by corporate schemes. If you retire from another country, you will need to ensure that your pension income can be paid to your account in Saudi Arabia if you want to live there for a long time. 

Saudi Arabia is an oil-rich country and no personal income tax is payable except for those with a business income. Because it is difficult to get a permanent residence permit, it is likely you will have to split your time between Saudi Arabia and your home country. If, as is likely, you spend more than 183 days in your home country, you will be deemed tax resident there and your global income will be subject to its income tax laws and rates.

Most people like to enjoy the standard of living they had before they retired. However, many studies show that people are highly likely to find that their savings have been used up much earlier than expected. It is therefore recommended to establish a detailed retirement plan and start saving early, regardless of your age. A retirement plan should include your expected retirement age, the lifestyle you would like to have during retirement, the cost of living you would expect, sources of your income and the level of risk of your source of income, and strategy to meet your goals.




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