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Utilities and Services in SaudiYour Guide to Essential Services in the Kingdom

Discover the digital landscape of Saudi Arabia, from setting up vital services like bank accounts and phone numbers to navigating key online platforms like Absher, Nafath, and Tawakkalna, essential for residents and expatriates alike in achieving seamless integration.

With over 630 online platforms, Saudi Arabia is rapidly advancing in digital governance. Aiming to enhance the quality of life in the Kingdom for both locals and expats, the country has embraced technological innovation and digitalization as cornerstones of its Vision 2030 plan. Navigating these digital portals and understanding how to set up essential services, such as opening a Saudi bank account, getting a national address, or acquiring a phone number, is crucial for your integration as a resident of Saudi Arabia.

The following comprehensive guide to living in Saudi focuses on utilities and services and provides key information about the most important digital platforms.

Opening a Saudi Bank Account

Foreigners in Saudi Arabia can easily open a personal bank account by following our 10-step guide.

Step 1: Confirm Residency Status

Non-Saudi residents need a valid Iqama (residence permit). This document is critical as it confirms legal residency in the country and is required for most banking procedures.

Step 2: Choose the Right Bank

Expatriates should research and choose a bank that suits their needs, considering factors like customer service, branch and ATM availability, online banking capabilities, and specific services for foreigners.

Step 3: Gather Required Documents

Once they choose a bank, applicants should check what documents that specific bank requires. Necessary documentation typically includes a valid Iqama, a passport with a current visa, a letter of employment from a Saudi employer that includes details about their salary and job position, and proof of address in Saudi Arabia, such as a utility bill or a rental agreement.

Step 4: Visit a Bank Branch

Most banks require a visit to a branch to open an account. Although some offer online account opening, an in-person visit is often necessary for verification and finalizing the process.

Step 5: Start the Application Process

Non-Saudi residents should fill out the application form carefully, ensuring all information corresponds with their official documents.

Step 6: Understand the Initial Deposit Requirements

Some banks may require an initial deposit to open an account. The amount varies, so it’s important to check with the chosen bank.

Step 7: Set Up Online and Mobile Banking

Once the account is active, set up online and mobile banking facilities. This provides convenient access to all financial services.

Step 8: Receive Debit Card and Checkbook

A debit card is usually provided after opening the account. Some banks may also provide a checkbook, depending on the account type and bank policies.

Step 9: Read the Terms and Conditions

Expatriates should familiarize themselves with the terms and conditions of their new bank account, including all the fees, charges, and services offered.

Step 10: Stay Informed on Banking Regulations

Banking regulations and requirements in Saudi Arabia can change. A final, ongoing step for non-Saudi individuals is to stay updated on the latest information from their bank or the relevant authorities.

Registering a National Address

National address registration is legally required for all residents of Saudi Arabia, including foreigners. The system is necessary for various administrative, legal, and delivery services.

With a national address, residents can access and use government services, including banking, healthcare, and legal affairs. The address is needed to receive mail and packages, as the Saudi postal system relies on this standardized address format.

Furthermore, the national address facilitates administrative efficiency by streamlining transactions and communications with both governmental and private entities.

Foreigners can register a national address in five easy steps.

Step 1: Register Online

Expatriates and residents can register online by visiting the Saudi Post's official National Address system website. On this platform, foreigners should select the option for non-Saudi residents and provide their personal information, such as the Iqama number, a valid mobile number, and an active email address.

With this step, foreigners establish a digital identity in the system.

Step 2: Complete the Verification Process

Upon submitting the initial details, a verification code will be sent to you via SMS or email. This code must be entered on the website to complete the verification process, which confirms the validity of the contact information provided.

Step 3: Enter Address Details

After validating the account, residents need to provide details regarding their residential address, including the city, street name, building number, and postal code. More information may be required for accurate location identification.

Step 4: Review and Finalize the Registration

Before the final submission, it’s a good idea to review all the entered information for accuracy. If everything is correct, submit the application and wait to receive a confirmation with a unique National Address. The confirmation means the registration process is successfully completed.

Acquiring a Saudi Phone Number

In Saudi Arabia, non-Saudis need a local phone number for several purposes, including communication, verification and registration, emergency services, and social integration.

Not only is a phone number required for verifying identity and registering for banking, online shopping, and government services like Absher but getting a local number is a lot more cost-effective for everyday communication.

In addition to this, with a Saudi phone number, foreigners can more easily integrate into the community.

Obtaining a Saudi phone number is a straightforward process that can be completed in four easy steps.

Step 1: Select a Service Provider

Residents should begin the process by researching Saudi Arabia’s major telecom service providers, such as STC, Mobily, and Zain. Comparing their plans and services helps in identifying the best one for one’s specific needs and preferences in terms of calls, texts, and data usage.

Step 2: Visit a Retail Outlet to Submit Documents

The next step is visiting the retail store of the chosen service provider. These stores are typically located in malls and commercial districts. Remember to bring your valid passports and Iqama as these documents are often required to register for telecom service.

However, some providers may request additional documentation. It’s wise to inquire about all the necessary documents beforehand to ensure a smooth registration process.

Step 4: Choose a Plan

All Saudi residents can choose between various prepaid and postpaid options. For this choice, expats should consider their expected communication needs and budget while selecting the most suitable plan.

Step 5: Active the SIM Card

As a final step, the service provided will activate the new Saudi phone number and issue a SIM card. Usually, after the activation, the resident can use their new local phone number immediately.

Important Digital Portals and Services

Saudi Arabia has embraced a digital-first approach, which means that many essential government services are available exclusively online.

Both expatriates and residents are expected to familiarize themselves with the key digital portals crucial for accessing a range of government and personal services.

The most important ones include Absher, Nafath, and Tawakkalna Services.

Absher: The Ministry of Interior’s Digital Gateway

Absher, developed by the Ministry of Interior, is an online platform and a mobile application that offers a wide array of services. The portal is an initiative by the Saudi Arabian government, whose goal is to eliminate physical visits to government offices.

In its essence, Absher streamlines transactions and improves the efficiency of citizen services.

Key services offered:

  • Iqama Services: Application and management of residency permits, status checks, and personal information updates.
  • Visa Services: Application and obtainment of exit and re-entry visas, family visas, and extension of visit visas.
  • Marriage and Divorce Services: Application for registering marriages and initiating divorces.
  • Vehicle Services: Application for vehicle registration, renewals, driver's license issuance, and ownership transfers.
  • Hajj and Umrah Services: Application for services related to pilgrimage visa issuance and registration.
  • General Information: Updates and notifications related to government services and policies.

In the future, more services will likely be available on Absher. The Saudi Arabian government continuously updates the portal and adds news services based on the needs of residents and citizens.

Nafath: Unified Digital Identity Management

Nafath is a digital identity management platform provided by the National Information Center of Saudi Arabia. It simplifies access to various services by verifying users' identities, representing a digital version of physical identity documents.

Key services offered:

  • Self-service registration
  • Online identification and authentication of end-users
  • Automated federation with respect to authentication Level
  • Online transactions PKI signing and validation
  • Self-service credentials management
  • Online service provider onboarding
  • Online physical ID card post issuance
  • User identity validation and provisioning

Nafath targets millions of users, offering robust and reliable identity solutions that aim to strengthen the trust in online services across Saudi Arabia and the GCC. The two main solutions include:

  • Approval of login and other requests from the integrated applications with NAFATH
  • Activating biometric features (ability to verify identity with biometrics).

Tawakkalna Services: A Comprehensive Digital Companion

Tawakkalna Services, developed by The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, integrates a wide range of services covering health, education, transport, religious and public services, and entertainment. It is best described as a comprehensive digital companion for the Kingdom’s citizens, residents, and visitors.

Key services offered:

  • Public Services: Making donations, mobile number certification, and information correction.
  • Health Services: Registering for organ donation, ambulance requests, and emergency SOS.
  • Religious Services: Access to Manasik Gate for pilgrimage-related services.
  • Travel Services: Obtaining health travel requirements and related information.
  • Education Services: Checking children’s educational status and academic scores.
  • Family Member Services: Monitoring dependents and sponsored members.
  • Event Services: Buying tickets online.

Tawakkalna Services aims to enrich the user experience by offering a range of integrated services that cater to daily life needs, such as the issuance of a driver’s license, insurance documentation, passport queries and requests, a government-approved digital wallet, charity donations, data correction, and information verification. Within the platform, users can even buy tickets for entertainment and cultural events across the country.

Important: The Tawakkalna Services platform is different and should not be mistaken for the Tawakkalna app, which is used mainly for giving proof of one’s health condition upon entry to public places.

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