What are the options and visa requirements for contract recruitment in the GCC?

Previously we discussed the myths of contract hiring for both employers and job-seekers, and also found that there has been growing demand in flourishing regions like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

However, since the various contract solutions available in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) can often be quite confusing for both employers and employees, we have decided to list out some of the different types of visas and salary payment option to help you understand contract recruitment in this region.


Progressive Dubai’s extensive experience in contract recruitment

Progressive Recruitment is part of the larger SThree group, in which a strong record in contract recruitment can be seen. 76% of SThree’s revenue come from the contract recruitment business. Those who work on a contractual basis, whether as temporary workers or as freelancers are called contractors. Below is a snapshot of our contracts business.

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Types of contract recruitment and its visa requirements in the GCC

The actual services offered via contract recruitment vary from country to country. Below are the four main types of contract recruitment that we support in this region:


Umbrella company on residence visa

What is it?

  • Umbrella companies are groups or organisations that take on contractors on their payroll
  • The umbrella company then takes full reign in transferring the visa to a residence visa


The role of Progressive Recruitment in this situation serves as a ‘support function middleman’ to oversee the overall visa process and ensure that the process is smooth and easy for both the employer, employee and the umbrella company.

What are the benefits?

  • Umbrella companies possess a higher volume of visa slots which increases the capacity and capabilities to onboard more candidates and foreign talent
  • Payroll process is straightforward and clear – contractor uploads timesheet on the system ‘Workflow’. This is then approved by the employer before the umbrella company raises an invoice after being notified.

Common myths to debunk:

  • “I am hesitant to trust this process and be put on a ‘random’ visa”

These umbrella companies are credible institutions who are deemed as ‘sister companies’ to Progressive. While they are partnered with us on a project basis, Progressive is here to clarify your doubts at every step of the way if you do chance upon any throughout the entire hiring process.

  • “Timelines of being paid are not clear to me”

Once visas are being processed you would be put on either a seven or 14-days payment term depending on your contract terms. Generally, most are put on a 14-days payment term and this is a standard protocol regulation.


Freelancer visa

What is it?

The Freelancer License enables businesses to tap into the experience and expertise in the local market and provide workers with flexibility to work remotely from authorised locations. Applicants are not required to take office space and can apply for residency visas for themselves and their family.

What are the benefits?

  • Launched amidst the pandemic in November 2020, UAE citizens, residents and non-residents can now apply for freelance licenses in the UAE
  • Creation of more job opportunities in the UAE which will diversify the business sector in the capital
  • With the new license rules, freelancers can practice 48 different types of business in Abu Dhabi. Previously, the licenses were issued to UAE nationals only

Common myths to bunk:

  • “Difficult process overall as there are many steps to go about during the application”

To apply, applicants must 'prove their relevant skillset' and if this matches the freelance work they will be doing. Permission from any employer is required before applying for the license. Although you will need to go through the ministry to get the visa approved, Progressive is able to assist you in the provision of a 'labour card' to start working on projects after you get the visa approved.

  • “Anyone outside of UAE like Qatar and Saudi will not get this benefit”

Whilst the license is not applicable to Qatar or Saudi Arabia, they do have their own ‘business visa’ that freelancers and contractors can already apply.


Saudi Business Visa

What is it?

Saudi business visas allow you to carry out limited business transactions with a Saudi sponsor. If you want to work in the KSA, you will need to apply beforehand for a work visa, also known as an employment visa. A work visa allows the holder to work in the KSA.

What are the benefits?

  • You can apply from your home country

After doing so, you would receive a No Objection Certificate (NOC) directly from your home country visa application centre. You will then receive an invitation letter from the employer to receive the visa.

  • Higher salaries for contractors

You are more than likely to receive a better remuneration package compared to the market average as you would be working onsite in Saudi Arabia.

  • You would also be paid directly in your home country which is fuss free for you and your family

Common myths to debunk?

  • “The visa is non extendable and I have to head home right after”

The Saudi Business Visa is a 6-12 months extendable visa depending on nationalities. The only potential drawback is that you must leave the country every 90 days as that is the maximum stay per entry. Nonetheless, the 90-day period can be extended to a further 90 days by paying a small fee.


Limited Liability Company (LLC)

What is this?

This is only applicable when an employer has entities set up in various geographies. For example, if an employer has an entity set up in the UK and a contractor from the UK would like to work in Saudi, we can pay them in their limited company in the UK.

In the case where they do not have a limited company set up, we will have to use an umbrella company to pay them. If the contractor is working in the UAE, Progressive will be able to provide them with a residency visa, and remuneration will be credited directly to their UAE bank account.

What are the benefits?

  • No restrictions on the number of visas that can be obtained
  • No restrictions on the location where the company can rent or buy office premises
  • The government has permanently waived any paid-up capital requirements.


What option should you choose if you are working remotely

Remote freelancers are growing at a remarkable rate all over the world considering the pandemic as travel borders remain restricted.

In such cases, one would need to either have their LLC set up or go for the option of engaging an umbrella company as mentioned above. Given that these freelancers may be based at any location on the globe, organisations face the challenge of paying them directly to their personal bank account.

In the case of those who already have an LLC, tax incurred will be significantly lower.


Which visa would you require?

The most common options and visas that we see would be the UAE’s residence visa, as well as Saudi’s business visa.

Ultimately, the option that you would be going for is highly dependent on your current location geographically, as well as your current situation. If you are curious to learn more, or in doubts of which option you would fall under, reach out to our team now as the onus is on us to make sure that you can work legally in the company or country in your next career step, or next potential hire.


We are here to support you

If you are looking for a cost-effective recruitment strategy to grow your business, or if you are looking for a more flexible, skilled, and well-paid opportunity for your career path, we can help. Our LinkedIn page is also a great resource for both employers and job seekers if you want to be kept updated with relevant market insights and tips.

Get in touch

Whether you’re a professional looking for a job or a business seeking highly skilled STEM talent, the team at Progressive is here for you.

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