Getting a Job in the Middle East

Following his recent blog on things to consider when moving to the Middle East, Leap29 Global Operations Manager, Adam O’Donnell answers the popular question of how long it can take to get a job in the region.

Candidates outside of the Middle East, who are seeking to move to the region, regularly contact me for an insight into job opportunities. After talking through the potential employers that might interest them, live vacancies and their career ambitions, I always highlight the importance of patience.

Getting a job in the Middle East for a candidate outside the region is a lengthy process. Therefore, patience is going to be key. 

On average, I would say from initial contact with a recruiter to starting employment, it could take anything up to six to nine months. This depends on two things; the length of the candidates notice period and the length of the interview process. However, for industries such as banking and legal where a three-month notice period is common, the suggested time is accurate.

Below is an overview of the interview process and insight into what happens after an offer of employment.

Interview Process

Traditionally interview processes can take over one month to complete. This will include a series of telephone interviews, followed by a final meeting at the potential employer’s office. The final meeting is what usually delays the interview process. Flights and hotels need booking, visa issued and arranging the interviewing panel’s diary for when everyone in the office takes weeks of planning. I have had experiences where an interview process can take three months to complete.

Personally, I would advise all candidates to go and meet the employer at their office before agreeing to accept a position, especially if you are relocating your family. It is critical in order to build an understanding of the culture, working environment and to get a brief insight into the lifestyle offered in that particular country. Candidates will also learn more about the people you are working with from meeting them in person, opposed to a conversation over telephone.

The reason I highlight this particular point is that some industries and employers will offer candidates’ positions based on a telephone interview. Researching the lifestyle available in a country is not the same as seeing it for yourself. Ask the recruiter you are working with at the beginning of the interview process if a face-to-face meeting is included in the interviews. None of my clients will hire without a face-to-face meeting. Point of caution, I have heard of some companies asking the candidate to pay for the flights to go to the final interview. For me, a big warning sign and I would not ask a candidate to do this.


Once the interview process is completed, issuing the offer can take another week or two. If the offer is acceptable, candidates then need to complete what can be a lengthy visa process. Please do not resign from your current employer until you have been issued with a visa and been informed by your potential employer that it is safe to resign. The visa process can include the following

  • Attestation of highest education certificate
    (some countries now request transcripts and supporting letter from your University).

    The UK process includes attestation from a notary public/solicitor, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and then finally the embassy of the country you are moving to. For example, if you were moving to the UAE, you would need to get a final stamp from the UAE embassy in London. The process is different depending on your nationality; however, it will usually involve multiple steps.
  • Police Clearance /Certificate of good conduct.
    Again, this will need attesting and the process for obtaining a certificate is different depending on your country of residence. Most police stations can issue a certificate on request.
  • Approval to hire from Central Bank, Regulator and/or Government Department.
  • Evidence to support no local talent can undertake the same position.
  • Medical

All of the above can take one month to complete, if not more. You need to understand what you will have to complete before starting employment. Traditionally the attestation of documentation is undertaken whilst serving your notice period. To reiterate, understand when it is safe to resign from your employer and that there is no risk of your visa being rejected. Without a clear process from signing the offer to joining the business, it can create confusion, doubt in the opportunity and a lot of unnecessary stress.

To summarise, relocating to the Middle East is not a quick process as a rule. It requires flexibility and an understanding that economic conditions have changed in the region. Given the time it takes, I would advise all candidates to conduct their research on moving to the Middle East before starting an interview process.

I hope people find this information useful and that it does not stop people applying for roles in the Middle East. It remains one of the most popular expatriate destinations for employment and lifestyle. There are plenty of relocation firms on hand to provide support. Working with a reputable recruiter with experience relocating candidates to the region also helps. The recruitment process might take time, but from my experience, it is worth the wait.


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