For most foreign nationals, including those from the UK, US, Australia, Asia and the EU, working, living, or just visiting Bahrain requires an entry visa which must be sponsored by a Bahraini company or individual. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of arrival.
The types of Bahrain visas we can assist with include: long-term work visas, temporary/project visas, business visit visas, tourist visas and family visit visas, dependent visas and domestic visas (e.g. for a maid, nanny or driver), and Saudi Arabia visas.
We can also help with Bahrain work permits, Bahrain residence permits, business licenses, and registration with the authorities responsible for regulating the employment of all foreign nationals in the country. We can also ensure the relevant monthly related fees are settled promptly.
PRIME provides professional document clearing services, taking care of the entire process from start to finish. Let us handle all the formalities so you can focus on settling in without the added stress.
To obtain visas and business-related documentation, it’s necessary to liaise with five separate authorities.
The five key organisations and what they cover
Below we’ve detailed each of the authorities and what their respective responsibilities:
1. The Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA)
The LMRA is a government body mandated to regulate the labour market in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The LMRA is authorised to issue work permits and work visas, and to regulate and supervise manpower licences, recruitment agencies and the business practices of self-sponsored expatriates.
PRIME is a registered agent with all relevant authorities (an agent is also referred to locally as a public relations officer or PRO). This means that we can act as your authorised proxy with the LMRA. We have our own dedicated unique access enabling us to submit applications for new visas and renewals on behalf of all our clients using our login credentials.
Company registration and amendments
Before you can sponsor expatriate employees, your company must be registered with the LMRA. This would normally require the owner or representative to visit the LMRA in person – however, PRIME can manage LMRA registration on your behalf, with no need for you to be present. Once registered, your company will be allocated a certain number of work visas, depending on the size and nature of the business. We can also handle any necessary amendments and requests for an increase of this allocation if and when required.
Work visas – new, renewal and cancellation
All foreign individuals must obtain a work visa before they can legally begin working in Bahrain. Business owners or representatives may apply for work visas for either one or two years. Thereafter, these can be renewed for two years, one year or six months. PRIME can apply for the relevant work visa on your behalf.
If an employee resigns or leaves their employment for any reason, the employer must terminate his or her visa by notifying the LMRA. It is the employer’s responsibility to repatriate the expatriate employee within 30 days from the date of their termination, unless during this period a new visa has been issued for them. We can make sure all the necessary steps are taken to ensure the employee complies with the work visa laws.
PRIME can apply on your behalf for dependent visas for a spouse and any children under the age of 18. These are obtainable after completing the visa process for the primary expatriate employee. However, a dependent visa will not be issued if the monthly salary of the expatriate employee is less than a certain amount.
The validity of a dependent visa is contingent upon the visa of the primary expatriate employee. If an employee leaves employment, this will negate the dependent visa.
For dependents over the age of 18 years, the procedure for issuing the visa is directly through the Nationality Passports and Residency Affairs (NPRA), and depends on the regulations of this department.
Work permits for domestic staff
PRIME can also apply to the LMRA for your domestic staff visas. The LMRA manages the issuance of work permits for expatriate domestic employees and their equivalents. This allows expatriate employees to employ domestic staff, as long as they themselves earn a specified minimum wage and have permission from their employer.
Work visa ceiling and workload alert application
Once registered with the LMRA, a company is automatically allocated a certain minimum number of work visas, the number depending on the company’s business activity. If your business requires additional visas, PRIME can help you acquire these by submitting a work visa ceiling application. Please note that the LMRA has set out a maximum restriction on the number of visas for companies registered with them; PRIME can seek to increase this limit via an exemption application commonly known as the workload application, based on the nature and scope of your projects in Bahrain.
Change of job title
Frequently in the course of business, additional jobs may be assigned to an employee and this might warrant a change of job title in the Ministry records as well. PRIME can assist in changing the job title by submitting an application to the LMRA and can also update the change of job title on the employee’s smartcard and residence permit.
Clearing of offences
In the course of business, you might encounter situations where your visa applications are blocked by the LMRA due to non-compliance with certain rules and regulations. This block usually appears in the form of an “offence”. PRIME can guide you from the beginning on how to ensure your commercial registration is offence-free and the remedial measures to take if any offence is recoreded.
2. Immigration and Passports Directorate
Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs (NPRA) is one of the oldest border agencies issuing travel documents and granting citizenship in the Arabian Gulf. It plays a leading role in creating and developing rules and regulations, and in enacting the laws for travel documents, passports, immigration and naturalisation. Part of its responsibility is processing applications for Bahrain visit visas and eVisas.
PRIME also handles visas for business visitors, who may participate in limited short-term activities as authorised by the NPRA. However, such visitors are generally not allowed to engage in productive work or hands-on pursuits that are an extension of professional activities. The visitor’s sponsor in Bahrain must provide a no-objection certificate before the visa application. Once the visa has been granted and the visitor is in Bahrain, PRIME can submit an application for a visa extension by paying the required fee.
Family visit visas
To obtain a family visit visa for close relations of an expatriate employee their employer needs to submit an application, which PRIME can do on your behalf. Upon arrival in Bahrain, we can also extend the visa by following the required procedures and paying additional fees.
Five-year year multiple re-entry visa (for UK, US, Canadian and Irish nationals)
These nationalities are allowed a multiple re-entry visa valid for five years which allows them to visit and stay in Bahrain for up to three months per visit, subject to conditions. PRIME can apply for this on your behalf and advise you on the rules.
Multiple entry visa for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia & residence visas for dependents
As Bahrain is a friendly country with limited restrictions imposed on expatriates, some of those who work in Saudi Arabia opt to live in Bahrain. PRIME can help families to obtain residence permits by submitting an application, provided the Saudi employer is willing to provide the necessary documents.
Self-sponsorship visa for retired foreigners and property owners
PRIME can assist foreign retirees aged 55 and above to apply for a self-sponsorship residence permit. They must be able to provide a retirement certificate issued by an employer, whether in Bahrain or another GCC country, and they should have worked for at least 15 years.
Similarly, we can help with obtaining a self-sponsorship residence permit, which is issued to owners of property in Bahrain worth at least BHD50,000. The permit lasts two, five or ten years, and can be renewed by us.
3. The Central Informatics Organization of Bahrain (CIO)
The CIO is a government organisation responsible for the issuance of smartcards, (formerly known as CPR cards). A smartcard is the National Identity Card in Bahrain for both Bahraini’s and expatriates. Every individual in Bahrain needs a smartcard for all aspects of living here. This includes services such as opening a bank account, installing a telephone connection or renting property.
Smartcards are valid for five years; thereafter they may be renewed. PRIME will ensure that all your employees are issued with smartcards. We can also send you reminders when they are due for renewal in order to avoid your organisation having any violations recorded against it.
4. The Social Insurance Organization (SIO)
The SIO is the official authority responsible for providing social insurance services to all individuals covered by Pension Civil Law and Social Insurance Law in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The SIO provides social insurance coverage for individuals against risks of aging, disability, death, work-related injuries, and unemployment in both the public and private sectors. As a registered agent with all the ministries and related authorities (also known as a public relations officer or PRO), PRIME can act as your authorised proxy with the SIO. We have our own dedicated access to enable us to complete formalities on behalf of our clients.
All companies that hire employees must register themselves with the SIO and must pay an SIO-mandated contribution. PRIME can make sure you are fully compliant in addition to making such payments on your company’s behalf. Failure to pay the mandatory contribution could result in legal action against the company.
Employee registration and termination
PRIME can assist employers with SIO registration of expatriate employees who require visas and residence permits, and with the payment of mandatory contributions. Similarly, when an employee leaves employment, PRIME can ensure that the SIO is notified.
Annual salary update
The salary of all employees registered under any company registration must be updated with the SIO annually. PRIME can do this for you.
Work accident registration
Safety procedures at worksites must be followed without compromise, as we are dealing with the health and lives of workers. Bahrain ministries are keen on ensuring the safety of every worker in the Kingdom, especially those working at outdoor sites, working at height and so on. If an incident does occur, PRIME can assist companies with registering the work accident/injury to the SIO. This allows employees to receive a daily allowance and/or compensation based on the severity of the injury and other factors.
5. General Directorate of Traffic Services (GDT)
If you intend to drive in Bahrain, you are allowed to use your regular driving licence initially. However, once you hold a resident’s permit, you are expected to obtain a Bahrain driving licence.
Driving licences are issued by the GDT for both expatriates and Bahrainis who are 18 years and above. They are valid for five years and may be renewed.
Depending on your nationality, and as soon as we process your Smartcard (Bahraini ID card), PRIME can help you obtain a Bahraini licence without the need for a driving test. We will also help change over your licence, and offer an escorted service to the GDT.
We can also assist with the following:
- Acquiring an international driving licence if you have a valid Bahraini licence
- Driving licence renewal
- Vehicle registration renewal
- Traffic contravention enquiries
- Payment/clearing of traffic fines
- Vehicle record enquiries
- Payment of traffic criminal orders
- Replacement of lost or damaged driving licence
- Obtaining vehicle insurance
Assistance with other documents
PRIME also offers document clearing services in many other areas, leaving you to concentrate on your core business.
Saudi Arabia visas
PRIME is able to assist with work, business, commercial, family and other visas for Saudi Arabia. We can provide accurate information on visa submission formalities, visa categories and relevant applicable fees.
Our first step is to verify the documents that clients provide to the Saudi Embassy, and then advise on the eligibility for the desired visa(s). Once the documents are verified and approved, we book an appointment for the collection of biometric information, and then escort our clients to the visa office.
Employment contract drafting
In order for a work visa to be processed, it is essential to provide an employment contract that meets the requirements of the Bahrain Labour Law. To this end, we can make sure that the employment contract is acceptable by providing assistance with contract drafting, whether for basic level or managerial level employees.
The LMRA requires the employment contract to be in Arabic or bilingual, including Arabic. PRIME can assist you with translating your contracts.
LMRA and SIO monthly bill payment
Once a company has active employees included on its commercial registration, both the LMRA and the SIO will issue invoices for their monthly levy. PRIME can assist in the proper calculation of the LMRA and SIO levies and the monthly settlement of these invoices. This will ensure that your commercial registration does not have any offence registered against it for non-payment or any violation that would block new visa applications and/or cancellation of work visas.
The “Bahrainisation” policy is a strategic nationalisation programme designed to create job opportunities for Bahraini nationals and to reduce domestic unemployment. A pre-condition of participating in tender applications and similar projects is producing a Bahrainisation Certificate. The Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MOL) will issue a certificate after ensuring that the company complies with the required percentage of Bahrainisation. PRIME can obtain this certificate on your behalf.
Expatriate employees coming to Bahrain on a work visa or those who transfer from a visit to a work visa must undergo a mandatory medical examination/test in Bahrain. This should be done at an approved medical centre or hospital. PRIME can help in completing this process and obtaining employees’ fitness reports.
Registration of new-borns at the NPRA
Before a dependent visa for a child born in Bahrain can be submitted to the LMRA, a file for the new-born must be opened with Nationality Passports and Residency Affairs (NPRA). PRIME can assist with opening a file for the child and then proceed with the submission of the dependent visa application directly to the LMRA.