Saudi Arabia loosens residency rules for investors, skilled foreigners

The kingdom approves permanent residency for the first time, with property perks for eligible applicants

Osama Ahmed Mansour/Shutterstock

Foreigners can now obtain permanent residency in Saudi Arabia in an effort by the kingdom to explore non-oil revenue streams, Bloomberg reported.

The cabinet stamped its final approval on a new scheme, dubbed ‘privileged iqama’, granting foreigners the perk of a one-year renewable residency, if not an indefinite stay.

It marks a departure from the existing ‘iqama’ system that allows foreigners to reside and work in the kingdom if they have a ‘kafeel’ or sponsor.

More: Now you can buy land in Abu Dhabi

“If you really want to move forward and innovate, the whole sponsorship system needs to be abolished,” said Nasser Saidi, president of Nasser Saidi & Associates and former chief economist at the Dubai International Financial Centre.

The new residency scheme gives successful applicants the right to own property — a move that would benefit wealthy Arabs who have resided in the kingdom for decades “without being able to as much as own the homes they live in,” Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Al Rajhi Capital, told Bloomberg.

However, the residency scheme will be offered to skilled expats — doctors, engineers, and innovators — as well as investors and professionals who can “contribute to the development of Saudi Arabia and lead to a prosperous future,” according to Lina Almaeena, a member of the consultative Shura Council which approved the scheme.

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