Saudi’s Shoura Council approves new ‘green-card’ residency scheme for expats

The new ‘privileged’ iqama law will seek to provide “qualified” foreigners residency without the need for a Saudi sponsor



Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council approved a draft law on Wednesday that seeks to provide a new ‘green-card’ style residency scheme for expat investors and entrepreneurs.

The new ‘privileged’ iqama (residency permit) law will seek to provide “highly-skilled” and “qualified” foreigners residency without the need for a Saudi sponsor, local media reported.

Under the law, the holder of such an iqama will have family status, can recruit workers, own property and transport in the kingdom, can obtain visit visas for relatives, can freely enter and exit the country and will also have the use of designated queues at airports.

Two categories will be offered – an extended iqama valid for an unlimited period, and a second with a one-year validity which will be subject to renewal.

Eligible expatriates must have a valid passport with a credit report, adequate financial resources, a health report and no criminal record.

Expats will also have to pay a specific fee for the iqama, the amount for which will be finalised under executive regulations. A separate centre will also be set up to handle such cases.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had revealed in 2016 that the kingdom plans to introduce a United States-style green card system to help the kingdom reduce remittances and also get rid of its sponsorship system.

In an interview with Bloomberg, when asked what “non-oil revenue measures” the kingdom will likely undertake to diversify the economy, he said: “We are working on a specific program similar to the green card.”

The green card system in the US authorises people to live and work in the country on a permanent basis. The employment status of a green card holder has no effect on their ability to live in the US.

Read: Saudi’s green card system will cut foreign remittances – report