Expats welcome Saudi ‘green card’ but say questions need to be answered

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Qualified expatriates will be allowed to own businesses and property in the Kingdom under the new residency permit. (AFP)
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Updated 17 May 2019
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Expats welcome Saudi ‘green card’ but say questions need to be answered

  • Saudi Arabia’s government approved the scheme on Tuesday
  • The “green card” allows expatriates to live and work in the Kingdom without the need of a local sponsor

JEDDAH: The Saudi Cabinet has given formal approval to the Privileged Iqama residency scheme, widely known as the Saudi “green card.” 

The scheme will enable expatriates to permanently reside, own property and invest their assets in the Kingdom.

A special committee has been given 90 days to determine regulations governing the scheme, including fees for applicants, conditions and procedures, and a schedule of benefits.    

The scheme has been welcomed by expats in the Kingdom. 

Lia Cidalia Da Graca Espiguinha, a 38-year-old Portugese licenced child care provider, said that the decision was “good for the country.”

“A lot of people wish to be here working, and a lot of people want to know the country better and they want to come to Saudi Arabia; so I think it is good for all,” she said. “It is good for the people that want to come and good for the country because it will bring money.”

However, Yawar Hussein, a 27-year-old software technician based in Jeddah, believes qualifying candidates should not be grouped into a single category. 

“My parents came from India 35 years ago. They sacrificed a lot of their life for this country. My brothers and sisters were all born here. I can say that in many ways I feel more Saudi than Indian. I hope this ‘green card’ iqama will offer some exemptions or discounts for us expats that were born and have only ever lived in one country — the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Mohammed Abu Omar, a 47-year-old branding consultant from Yemen, believes that it is still too early to form a definite opinion, but nevertheless believes it is a step in the right direction.

“I believe it is still early, as we have no clue who will be eligible for this or not. Also, there is the question of the fees. Will this cater only to those who have large bank accounts? But overall, this is great news of course. This should have been done decades ago. God-willing, it benefits this wonderful country, because the (expat) people have a lot to offer, and the contribution will be massive. So, the way I see it, this opportunity should open up the market for hiring more local people as the demand will rise with everyone having the opportunity and right to own their own business. But these laborers are actually the majority of people who are sending money out of the Kingdom, and if this (green card) is catered to them, surely they will begin to reinvest back into the country instead.”

And while many expat workers have welcomed the news, some, such as Bangladeshi driver, Ameen Udeen, say they will be unaffected by the decision.

“This ‘Privileged Iqama’ means nothing to me as a Bangladeshi driver who makes SR2,000 a month (of which I send most back home). I haven’t heard what the fees will be but they say that it will be very costly. I’m sure that I will not be able to afford it. For me, this new iqama is not meant for us drivers, house-helpers and laborers. Surely we cannot afford the benefits given our salary,” he said.

The Saudi Shoura Council voted for a new residency permit for qualifying expatriates, the “Privileged Iqama,” giving them the right to permanently live, work and own their own business and property in the Kingdom.

The permit scheme will enable Saudi Arabia to attract investors, Commerce and Investment Minister Dr. Majid Al-Qassabi said.

Al-Qassabi noted that the scheme is similar to residential practices around the world, attracting quality residents to the Kingdom while protecting the interests of Saudi citizens. 

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Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), said: “Our aim is to attract innovators from across the world to live and work in Saudi Arabia — and this reform will play a significant role in doing so. These investors and entrepreneurs will help to drive private-sector growth.”

“It is important that stakeholders understand that Saudi Arabia offers significant long-term opportunities,” he said. “We want to attract people who will build a foundation and a network in Saudi Arabia, and who will play a role in the future development of the Saudi economy and benefit from the growth opportunities it presents.”


Peace is our priority but the world must take a stand against Iran, says Saudi cabinet

Updated 22 May 2019
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Peace is our priority but the world must take a stand against Iran, says Saudi cabinet

  • Saudi cabinet says the international community must take firm action against the regime in Tehran
  • Saudi’s king invites GCC leaders to hold Gulf and Arab summits in Makkah on May 30

JEDDAH: The Saudi cabinet on Tuesday said that while the Kingdom believes all people in the region have a right to live in peace, including the Iranians, the international community must take firm action against the regime in Tehran to prevent it from spreading destruction and chaos.

After a meeting of the Council of Ministers at Assalam Palace, presided over by King Salman, Turki Al-Shabanah, the minister of media, told the Saudi Press Agency that the cabinet reviewed reports on regional and global development, and the king invited GCC leaders to hold Gulf and Arab summits in Makkah on May 30. The invitation reflects the Kingdom’s desire to work with other nations to boost security and stability in the region, the minister said, especially in light of the Iran’s continuing aggressive actions. The regime’s recent activities threaten regional and international peace and security, and the supply and stability of international oil markets, he added.

Al-Shabanah reiterated the Kingdom’s commitment to peace and said it will make every effort to prevent war. The nation’s hand is always extended, he added, in the belief that everyone in the region, including the Iranians, has the right to live in a secure and stable environment.

However, the cabinet called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities by taking a firm stance against the actions of the regime in Tehran, to prevent its disruptive and destructive activities throughout the world. It also called on Iran to halt the reckless and irresponsible behavior of its agents, to save the region from the dangers they pose and potential repercussions.

The cabinet also expressed the Kingdom’s hopes and expectations that the 14th Ordinary Session of the Islamic Summit Conference, will encourage unity of response to ongoing events in the Islamic world. The summit, chaired by King Salman, will be held in Makkah on May 31 under the title “Makkah Summit: Hand in Hand toward the Future.”

Ministers heard that the Kingdom has sent $250 million to the Central Bank of Sudan as part of a previously announced package of assistance in partnership with the United Arab Emirates. This latest demonstration of support from the Kingdom to the Sudanese people aims to help stabilize the country’s economy, and strengthen the Sudanese pound in particular, to help improve the lives of the nation’s people.

The cabinet also welcomed the decision of the 14th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee to monitor an oil production reduction agreement concluded in Jeddah, which was headed by the Kingdom and Russia, and affirmed its commitment to balancing the oil market and stabilizing it on a sustainable basis.

Turning to local affairs, the Council of Ministers confirmed the generous support of SR 100 million ($26.7 million) from the king, and SR 30 million from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Jood Housing platform. Launched a day earlier, and supervised by the National Housing Development Association, it aims to accelerate the development process through the introduction of a new model of social solidarity, in which government, charities and commercial entities work together in accordance with regulations designed to provide support for those in need.

The council also discussed the results of the 26th meeting of the region’s governors, and praised the king for his directives designed to preserve security and help people throughout the Kingdom.