“Privileged Uqama”: Saudi Arabia launches residency scheme for expatriates

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LONDON: Saudi Arabia on Sunday started accepting online applications for a special residency scheme that seeks to boost investment and generate non-oil revenues.
Officially known as a “Privileged Iqama” and commonly referred to as the Saudi “green card,” the new residency scheme was first mentioned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman nearly three years ago. However, the Saudi cabinet approved it last month and its website became operational on Sunday.

The program offers a permanent residency for SAR800,000 ($213,000) and a one-year but renewable residency costing SAR100,000 ($26,665.24), according to the online portal for registrations. In order to be eligible for the new green card scheme, expatriates must meet several criteria including having a valid passport, clean criminal record, financial solvency, and authentic credit and health reports.
According to a Reuters report, over 10 million expats currently work and live in Saudi Arabia “under a system that requires them to be sponsored by a Saudi employer and be issued an exit and re-entry visa whenever they want to leave the country.”
The new scheme will allow them, however, to do business without a Saudi sponsor, buy property and sponsor visas for relatives, the website said.
Analysts believe the program will largely benefit wealthy individuals who have lived in Saudi Arabia for years without permanent residency or multinational companies seeking to do long-term business in the Kingdom.
The move is aimed at boosting non-oil revenue as the Kingdom seeks to diversify its economy as part of its Vision 2030 plan. Experts say the new program can also benefit several Pakistanis who live in the Kingdom.