Nursing Opportunities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the region.

Nursing in the Middle East

The most frequent nursing location targets for nurses moving to the Middle East are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. US, British and Irish nurses are highly regarded in the region and are often sought for the more senior roles. Nursing is generally conducted through English in the region. There is also a tradition of recruiting nurses from the Philippines, India and Pakistan in large numbers.
In general, the benefits are:

• High take home Salaries
• Very low rates of taxation overall, including zero income tax.
• Accommodation provision
• Modern hospital environments
• Western nursing qualifications are recognised, subject to documentary evidence.

In terms of compensation the salaries will be in line with their home countries, perhaps a little less, but in view of the income being tax free and accommodation provided, nurses will generally find saving much easier from larger disposable incomes. In general contracts are not available on a married status basis, except in the case of the most senior staff, director, head of department, or physician contracts for example. Pets are not allowed in most cases.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Culturally there are differences both in terms of the workplace environment and in the general social milieu. Generally, accommodation is provided on a shared basis, except again for senior positions. There are dress codes for women, and they may not drive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Support will be needed through the employer to apply for residency visas (iqama). Holidays meanwhile are generally between 40-54 days per year.

Academic IELTS is required for the medical profession with the levels set by the individual institutions.

As social conservatism applies, the adoption of western norms may in some cases be inappropriate in Saudi Arabia. Crime is low, but freedom of expression is limited relative to western norms. Travel will be curtailed before the issue of a visa and subject to travel visas outside of this. The contract of employment will generally provide for flights at outset and expiration of contracts.

In terms of weather, there is generally a desert climate, with low levels of rainfall. This is less the case for the region on the western seaboard. Temperatures fall considerably at night. Riyadh, the capital is centrally located, dry and hot. Jeddah, another important city, is cooler, but more humid.

Here are some impressions from a US Nurse following her experience working in KSA:


Social conditions vary from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates, and even within the Emirates. Many Westerners over recent times have been active participants in fuelling the growth of Dubai.

Nurses are required to be Registered Nurses in their home country and have from 2-5+ years of post-qualification experience. IELTS is required at a minimum level of 6.0 and overall requirements are set out as follows:

The social conditions are not as conservative as in Saudi Arabia. Women can drive and are not required to wear abayas. Alcohol is permitted, on a limited basis, at licensed bars. Islam is again the recognised religion but there are churches of other faiths here, as opposed to the KSA.

Nursing recruitment is active in UAE with Dubai popular, together with Abu Dhabi, which is only around a 2-hour drive away. In addition to the Emirates, there is also active healthcare demand in Kuwait and Qatar.


Overall the area offers opportunities for nurses in a variety of circumstances. Some younger nurses will use this as a stepping stone to experience, before relocating to the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This is like a western nursing experience in a modern hospital setting delivered through English.
Others have used it as an opportunity to save money from their tax-free salaries over a time to establish a level of financial independence. Some may adopt longer term and develop their careers here.

The political climate locally is generally stable, though there are many regional factors that have the potential to give rise to concern. Nurses may be advised to retain a range of flexibility, in terms of their options, should such a scenario develop. However, this would not necessarily exclude the region from the consideration of the internationally educated nurse, but, form part of the consideration.