Updated: Nov 20, 2019
As Saudi accelerates its reforms and development plans, significant opportunities are being created for foreign firms to win business in key sectors such as tourism development and entertainment, amongst others. In the short term there are still chances for specialist companies to be opportunistic and pick up time-limited projects that help fulfill government objectives around public and tourism focused events. In the long-term however, the days of the "smash and grab" approach to lucrative contracts in Saudi are gone. Now, if a company is serious about winning business in KSA, especially government-funded contracts, they will need to have a registered local entity and Commercial Registration (CR) number. Foreign-investors are able to have 100% ownership of Saudi entities or can decide to find a local partner either as an agent or shareholder. This post focuses on the 100% foreign-owned option.
Over the last few years, the Saudi General Investment Authority (SAGIA) have made serious strides in streamlining and digitizing the registration process for foreign investors and companies. Subject to having the correct documentation, a CR number can now be obtained in around 2 weeks, once the CR number is issued, a business should be able to bid for most contracts. Investors can decide to handle direct with support from SAGIA or can use the services of businesses like Astrolabs Riyadh, who will manage the process from end-to-end and have the advantage of providing a registered business address and co-working spaces as you get established. Full set-up with bank accounts, tax and social security registration in most cases should be completed in around 2 months. As a summary of the process, investors should anticipate the following steps:
Choose your business activity from the list of approved SAGIA activities.
Submit the following:
Share company overview deck (one page overview)
Submit your Shareholders' details (could be individuals, or a company)
For Individuals, this will be much faster process and these individuals need to come to Saudi for attestation for one day.
For a company, you will need to submit your company documnents and have them attested by public notary, ministry of foreign affairs, and Saudi Embassy at the origin country.
You will also need also an attested Power of Attorney for someone to set-up the new entity on behalf of the parent company.
Define paid up capital (No minimum, but SAR 10k is fine). SAGIA will issue license and named individuals will need to visit Saudi for attestation, issuance of your Commercial Registration, and issuance of Chamber of Commerce (one day visit).
Once this step is complete investors will need to finish set-up with the following: Registration with Social Insurance (GOSI)
Registration with Tax Authority (GAZT)
Registration with Ministry of Labor (opening a file to enable hiring and visas)
Registration of local mailing address (WASEL) required by government