Saudi 'green card' to allow expats to own property, start business in kingdom

Published May 15, 2019
Foreign labourers wait in a queue at the Saudi immigration offices at al-Isha quarter in al-Khazan district west of Riyadh, in this June 30, 2013 photo. Expats will be spared of the hassle of standing in long queues to get visa extensions. —AFP/File
Foreign labourers wait in a queue at the Saudi immigration offices at al-Isha quarter in al-Khazan district west of Riyadh, in this June 30, 2013 photo. Expats will be spared of the hassle of standing in long queues to get visa extensions. —AFP/File

The Saudi cabinet is deliberating over a proposed scheme to issue 'Privileged Iqamas' to expatriates that would allow them to become permanent residents, own properties and start businesses in the kingdom without the need of local sponsors called kafeel, Arab News reported.

It is pertinent to mention here that in the existing system, expatriates cannot start a business without a kafeel, who is required to have a sizeable share in the venture, which often leads to monetary disputes.

If the new scheme goes through, those on visit visas will also be spared from the hassle of visiting embassies every few months to get extensions.

The Privileged Iqama, or the Saudi 'green card', could also benefit the nearly 2.7 million Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia who "remit nearly $6 billion from Saudi Arabia every year", Arab News stated.

"The biggest beneficiaries of the new scheme will be the Pakistanis who have been living there [and] are aware of their language... they can invest in small and medium-sized businesses and employ other Pakistanis without relying on local partners,” Rizwan-ul-Haq, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told the publication.

"If mid-to-large scale businesses are assured of legal rights and a conducive environment, they would definitely move to Saudi Arabia. The educational and hospitality sector can boom."

Those applying for the Privileged Iqama will have to pay a higher one-off fee; have a valid passport and a clear criminal record; be financially solvent and possess authentic credit and health reports.

The scheme awaits the cabinet's approval three years after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman first proposed it.

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