New Saudi Residency Program Offers Raft of Benefits to Professional Expats
Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council has approved the “Privileged Iqama” program. Styled after the Green-Card residency scheme, the new system opens up major opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs and investors by abolishing their need for a Saudi sponsor or employer as a prerequisite.
Under the new system, which requires a guarantee of specific fees, there are two categories: An extended Iqama (Arabic for residency permit) and a temporary one.
The benefits include the ability to recruit of workers, ownership of property and transport, employment in the private sector, commerce and industry, freedom of movement and exit from the Kingdom and return, and the use of designated queues at airports.
Expatriates eligible for the special residency program must have a valid passport with a credit report, a health report and no criminal record.
Analysts predict that the distinctive offer of residency will attract over $10 billion yearly in investment.
“It enables them to own real estate and ease of travel in and out from Saudi Arabia,” economic analyst Rashid Al-Fawzan told Asharq Al-Awsat, stressing that the upgrade will “increase economic mobility in the Kingdom.”
Fawzan reassured Saudis worried that privileged incomers may spike local unemployment rates, saying that the system “encourages investment inside the country under the conditions of achieving a localization rate of between 50% and 100%.”
It is worth noting that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz first unveiled the scheme in April 2016, revealing the Kingdom’s plans for developing a Green Card- styled system within the next five years.
Saudi economist Dr. Abdul Wahid al-Hamid, for his part, said the new system is majorly advantageous.
Speaking on how it will affect the Kingdom’s labor market, Hamid said the Privileged Iqama will help build effective policies and strategies. In addition to boosted employment, the labor market will benefit from the accumulated experience of skilled expatriate professionals.