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Setting Up a Representative Office in Saudi Arabia:  A Step-by-Step Guide


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands as the largest economy in the Middle East, historically fueled by oil production with oil revenue dominating export earnings. KSA with the highest level of safe and secure business climate and political stability offers low energy cost and 100% foreign ownership in retail and wholesale sectors as a large privatization programme.

Overview of Saudi Arabian Business landscape

The business landscape in Saudi Arabia is characterized by its dynamism and promise, drawing the interest of both domestic and international investors. Boasting diverse sectors and lucrative opportunities, the Kingdom stands out as an attractive destination for those looking to tap into the Middle East’s potential. Positioned strategically, abundant in resources, and boasting a stable economy, Saudi Arabia provides an ideal environment for success. The nation’s growing population, expanding consumer market, and ambitious economic reforms further contribute to its status as a fertile ground where businesses can flourish and achieve prosperity.

How many types of companies in Saudi Arabia

When contemplating company registration in Saudi Arabia, entrepreneurs have a variety of options to explore. The Kingdom commonly witnesses the establishment of several types of companies, with the following being the most prevalent:

  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) It is the most commonly formed company in Saudi Arabia. It allows minimum liability for owners against company debt. An LLC company is not permitted to have more than 50 shareholders.
  • Joint Stock Company (JSC) It consists of capital that is divided into shares of equal value.
  • Single Member Limited Liability Company (SMLLC) It is a limited liability company and can have a sole owner who owns all the shares of the company.
  • Limited Partnership Company (LLP) It is a partnership company in which some or all partners have limited liability with elements of partnerships and corporations.

Besides, special business forms are available to foreign companies for doing business in Saudi Arabia.

  • Joint Ventures
  • Branch Office
  • Representative Office

Saudi Arabia, with its growing market and strategic location, presents a lucrative opportunity for foreign companies seeking to establish a presence in the region. When considering a temporary option for market testing or maintaining a local contact point, a Saudi liaison or representative office, also known as a technical and scientific services office, can be an advantageous choice. This article provides a comprehensive guide on how to open a liaison office or representative office in Saudi Arabia.

A representative office in Saudi Arabia, as defined by Article 236 of the Foreign Investment Law, denotes a business presence established by a foreign company within the Kingdom. This legal provision outlines that foreign companies seeking to operate in Saudi Arabia can choose to do so through a representative office, branch, or other permissible forms, subject to compliance with the relevant statutory provisions.

Requirements for Registration

To register a representative office in Saudi Arabia, foreign enterprises must adhere to specific requirements and file essential documents with the Companies Registrar. The key documents include:

  1. Certificate of Incorporation: A copy of the foreign company’s Certificate of Incorporation must be submitted.
  2. Financial Documents: A copy of the parent company’s most recent annual financial statement and audited accounts should be provided.
  3. Commercial Agreement: A commercial agreement outlining the scope of activities must be drafted and filed with the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  4. Local Agent Appointment: The parent company is required to appoint a local agent in Saudi Arabia to represent its interests.

Establishment and Operational Details

A scientific and technical office, similar to a branch, does not require a specific share capital. The formation process is simpler compared to that of a corporation. The office is obligated to provide the Ministry of Commerce with an annual account of its operations in the Kingdom. This simplicity in formation is a key advantage of choosing a liaison office for temporary operations.

Legal Considerations when setting up a representative office in Saudi Arabia

Saudi legislation allows for the establishment of temporary registrations and technical and scientific offices as representative entities. Such entities are usually employed to offer technical support for manufacturers through a distributor.

It is important to note that Saudi liaison offices can only carry out certain activities. They usually can:

  • Offer technical advice;
  • Help distributors and clients with products;
  • Support market and technical analysis for these products.


Understanding the taxation system is crucial for foreign entities operating in Saudi Arabia. While there is no personal income tax, businesses, including those with foreign ownership, are subject to corporate tax. Unlisted businesses face a corporate tax rate of 20%. Additionally, there is a Zakat tax of 2% on profits attributable to interests owned by Saudi or Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals.

For representative offices, the following withholding taxes apply:

  1. Telecommunications Service Payments: Subject to a 5% tax.
  2. Royalties: Imposed at a rate of 15% withholding tax.
  3. Management Fees: Withholding tax rate is 20%.

Establishing a representative office in Saudi Arabia presents foreign companies with a strategic entry point into the dynamic regional market. Despite involving meticulous documentation and adherence to Saudi regulations, opting for a liaison office brings advantages such as market testing and local support, making it a prudent choice for temporary operations. A comprehensive grasp of legal and tax considerations is crucial for ensuring a seamless establishment and the subsequent successful operation in Saudi Arabia. United Advocates stands ready to furnish information regarding the establishment of a representative office in Saudi Arabia, including associated costs.