Introduction of Skills Verification Program Will Filter Talent in Saudi Arabia's Labor Market

March 11, 2021

Key Points

  • Beginning July 2021, foreign nationals looking for employment in the private sector of Saudi Arabia will be required to take exams based on their field of work to better evaluate their skills and experience.
  • Both prospective and current foreign employees in more than 1,000 specialized professions will be required to take the mandatory exam that will be administered by Saudi authorities and the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • The program is expected to limit the inclusion of unskilled workers in the country’s labor market and could potentially add extra costs for employers hiring foreign nationals.

Overview

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia has introduced the Skills Verification Program, which aims to improve the overall skill level of workers in the Saudi labor market and limit the participation of unskilled foreign national workers. Starting in July 2021, foreign nationals in over 1,000 specialized professions will be required to pass an examination to ensure that they hold the necessary skills to perform the profession that they work in.

What Are the Changes?

The goals of the Skills Verification Program are outlined as such:

  • For Saudi Arabia to become a leading contributor in developing workforce skills and meet the country’s labor market needs.
  • To enhance productivity and quality of service across the private sector.
  • To prevent and limit the inclusion of unskilled workers in the Saudi labor market.
  • To act as pioneers in advanced vocational testing.
  • To provide better employment for citizens of Saudi Arabia.

Beginning July 2021, to be considered for a work visa in Saudi Arabia, foreign nationals will be required to pass the applicable Skills Verification exam that will be administered by Saudi authorities and/or the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Employers who hire or already employ foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia are required to register online to enroll their foreign national employees for the applicable exam. The link for employers to register their employees for participation can be found here. Participating employees of the program will be examined by local Saudi agencies. The Skills Verification exams will be different for each profession in the Saudi labor market.

At this time, no information has been provided on whether applicants who do not pass the designated exam will be allowed to renew their work authorization, or what the rules or policies will be regarding retaking the assigned exam.

Who is Affected?

The Professional Verification Skills program is expected to impact foreign national employees in more than 1,000 job roles across 23 fields of the private sector. The actual list of job titles has not yet been published, but almost all private sector companies that employ foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia should anticipate required participation in the program. Employers are likely to face increased costs in hiring foreign nationals and longer visa application and processing times.

Looking Ahead

Employers of foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia should anticipate further strict employment programs and procedures in the future. As part of the country’s Vision 2030 plan, which was first announced in 2016, Saudi Arabia is implementing an economic framework aimed at reducing their dependence on oil and further enhancing their labor market by creating more jobs for citizens of Saudi Arabia and reducing unskilled labor from foreign countries. For more information on Vision 2030 and its associated programs, please refer to the following link.

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Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional. 

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