Saudi Arabia: What’s In a Name?


Saudi Arabia is implementing more rules which specific apply to an individual’s name.  An expatriate’s name must appear the same way and same spelling on passports, iqamas and even the expatriate’s identification card from his or her home country.  If there are spelling errors or changes in the names as they appear from document to document, these changes must be corrected or the expatriate may risk forfeiture of employment.


I think the rule makes a lot of sense and should certainly be implemented worldwide.


However, while it sounds straightforward, that’s not always the case.  What’s in a name and why are so many names presented differently from country to country?


Take Pakistan for example which is also another country such as Saudi Arabia where its nationals must also have a national identification card.  Many Pakistani’s may have “Syed” listed in advance of their first (given) name.  For many, “Syed” is a name or rather term of honor and respect.  As a result, a national identification card may cite the name as Syed Tareq Mohammad Siddiqi for example.  It’s a legal name yet if you have to complete a document which asks for first name, father’s name and surname without compromise for hyphenated or double names, a passport or Saudi iqama may cite the name as Tareq Mohammad Siddiqi.


Arab names follow the format of first name (given name), father’s name and family (surname/tribe) name.  This format applies whether male or female and also is why the majority of married Arab women do not share the same surname as their husband or children.  My husband’s name is Abdullah Othman Al-Ajroush.  His name indicates that his parent’s chose to call him Abdullah, his father was named Othman and his surname/tribal name is Al-Ajroush.  Some Arab names will actually continue covering perhaps as many as eight generations.  The surname does not change but after the father’s name, the grandfather and great(s) grandfather’s names will be cited too possibly back to the beginning of that particular tribe.


My husband’s children whether male or female are known as (first name) Abdullah Al-Ajroush.  Again, if preferred, grandfathers names can follow after Abdullah usually with the word ibn or bin in between indicating “son of.”

Other expatriates in Saudi Arabia have other challenges when it comes to their names and official documentation.  Many Asians write their name with the surname followed by the first name.  Western names generally do not have the father’s name as a middle name and many Westerners may have hyphenated names.  These can be challenging factors when completing a Saudi application which asks for first name, father’s name and surname.


The bottom line is to ensure when completing or providing any data of a name is to confirm that the data matches before a document is processed.  A mismatched document pertaining to a name could take a long time to get corrected perhaps causing delays in getting paid or other essential issues.  In the worse case, documents with mismatched names could cause an expatriate to leave Saudi Arabia until corrections have been made and resolved.


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