Saudi Arabia approved a programme that offers permanent residency for some foreigners to attract investments, the latest sign of how the quest for non-oil revenue is prompting Gulf Arab countries to rethink the role of expats in their societies. Under the law, which allows foreigners to own property, those eligible can apply for an indefinite stay or a one-year renewable residency, according to the official news Agency. The government will detail the programme’s rules within 90 days after the cabinet gave its final approval.
There are more than 12 million foreigners in Saudi Arabia, according to official statistics over a third of the total population. Requirements for the residency include that the applicant have sufficient funds and pay a so-far unspecified fee. Saudi Arabia is opening up for investors and skilled professionals, Economy Minister Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri said in a statement. This ensures that residents and expatriates including those who have lived in the kingdom for decades are an active part of Saudi Arabia’s economy. This will strengthen the state’s revenue and robustly support the Saudi economy.
The announcement is a landmark move in a region where many expats are subject to some of the world’s most restrictive residency rules, including the need for a local sponsor and permission to leave the country. The UAE approved a plan to allow wealthy foreigners to apply for a 10-year stay. The Saudi move’s biggest beneficiaries will be thousands of wealthy Arabs, some of whom resided in the kingdom for decades “without being able to as much as own the homes they live in, said Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Al Rajhi Capital.
Al-Tuwaijri, the economy minister, said the plan would benefit multinational corporations, both those operating in the kingdom or those that want to enter the market. While Saudi Arabia is seeking to encourage the affluent to stay, monthly fees imposed on foreign workers and their families, along with sluggish economic growth, have prompted hundreds of thousands to leave the country. The levy is designed to encourage private businesses to hire Saudi nationals