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International Relocation for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: December 2015

Moving to a new country is an exciting prospect, and Saudi Arabia is likely to be a very different from your home country. Nevertheless, you will quickly find yourself with a near-endless to do list: apply for a visa, obtain a work permit, look for work, find accommodation, move belongings to your new home... Coordinating all these elements is demanding, as is dealing with bureaucracy in two countries (especially when one of them is Saudi Arabia.) You will need to familiarise yourself with what is required and start planning well in advance! Our Expat Briefing articles on Saudi Arabia offer a great starting point. Additionally, your prospective sponsor should ease the relocation process.

Relocation Companies

One way to make the move easier is to use an international relocation company. Most of these companies do a lot more than just removals. They can also help you to apply for visas, look for accommodation, fulfil administrative requirements and enable you to settle into your new environment more easily. A relocation company will save you a great deal of bureaucratic legwork and ensure that your move meets all rules and regulations in the destination country. Generally, these companies are worth the money you spend on them.

You can either find a relocation company in your home country or in Saudi Arabia. It is best to take some time to shop around, getting quotes from different companies, as the services offered and prices do vary. In addition, be sure to check if the company is registered with an international removal network such as the Federation of International Furniture Removers, FIDI. Some companies that offer relocation services to Saudi Arabia are:

Moving your Belongings

Packing is never much fun, so before you start, take a long hard look at your possessions. What do you really need? The more belongings you have, the more likely you are to need a removal firm. As these companies charge by volume (and by weight, for air removals), the more stuff you have, the more it will cost to move. So remember the old adage: if in doubt, chuck it out! Easy methods of lightening the load include donating to charity shops, using Freecycle and selling goods online or to second-hand dealers. Note that your removal company or insurer may require you to take an inventory of your remaining possessions in order to prepare a value statement.

If you do want to use a relocation company, another, cheaper option is to use a specialist removal firm to do the removal alone. These companies can also move any pets and vehicles you have. Do not forget, however, to take out a good insurance policy. Specialist international removal companies operating in Saudi Arabia include:

For shorter distances, the more budget-friendly option of moving to Saudi Arabia by car might be worth considering. As importing a car into the Kingdom is difficult (as detailed below), this is only likely to be worthwhile if you are currently resident in a Gulf Cooperation Council country. Hiring a van might also be economical, provided your belongings do not amount to more than a vanful or two. Note that these options are only available to men, as women are not permitted to drive at all in Saudi Arabia.

If you still have some items left over, you could consider sending them. Most airlines will allow one free piece of luggage when travelling into the country. Sending items via post or express delivery services such as DHL or UPS is only feasible for small items. Heavy parcels tend to be expensive, though there is normally a maximum delivery cost.

Note well that the belongings you can move may be restricted or subject to duties and taxes. For example, you will not be able to bring tobacco, alcohol, non-Islamic religious texts or many other items into the Kingdom.

Importing your Vehicle

Unless you are relocating from a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country, it is very difficult to import a vehicle into Saudi Arabia. If you are travelling long-distance, it is unlikely to be worthwhile, as it is both expensive and burdensome. Moreover, if you are from a milder climate (that is, most of the world), your vehicle is unlikely to perform well in the Saudi heat – unless it is modified at your expense. As cars are relatively cheap to buy in the Kingdom, it is seriously worth considering leaving your current vehicle at home.

If you are still determined to import your vehicle, there is substantial bureaucracy to negotiate. To be imported, a vehicle must be (unconverted) left-hand drive and less than five years old. It must also not have been in an accident or show any visible signs of damage, and must not have been used during a criminal offence. For four-wheel drive vehicles, you must additionally be able to prove that you have family resident in the country.

The documents you will need include a valid iqama, the legal document of ownership (with a certified translation into Arabic) and an export declaration from your home country. In addition, for cars, you will need to pay a customs duty of 5% of the vehicle’s value. Alternatively, if you have a sponsor, they will make the arrangements for the import of your vehicle. Ownership of the vehicle will legally pass to them, after which they will then be able to transfer ownership to you.

Do not forget that by importing your vehicle into Saudi Arabia, you are liable to pay import duty and taxes. Finally, you will need to register your vehicle. To do so, you will need all the documents listed under ‘Motor Vehicles’ on this Blue Abaya webpage. For more information on driving in Saudi Arabia, see Driving and Public Transport

Arriving in Saudi Arabia

After successfully relocating to Saudi Arabia, you will have to take care of several administrative matters, such as opening a bank account, registering with a doctor and checking in with your sponsor. To find out more, have a look at other sections of our Expat Briefing Website and consult the webpages of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.