Over 2.7 million Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia to benefit from new green card

Billboards showing portraits of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan displayed on a roadside ahead of the prince's arrival in Islamabad on Feb. 15, 2019. (AFP/File)
Updated 15 May 2019

Over 2.7 million Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia to benefit from new green card

  • “Privileged Iqama” scheme first mentioned by Saudi Crown Prince Salman nearly three years ago
  • Once approved, new system will end the need for expatriates to have a local sponsor, or “kafeel”

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s green-lighting of a new residency scheme for expatriates is a game-changer for 2.7 million Pakistanis living in the Kingdom, business officials and experts said, and might finally give expatriates who can pay a required fee the right to live, work and own business and property in the Kingdom.
The new residency scheme, officially known as a “Privileged Iqama” and commonly referred to as the Saudi “green card,” was first mentioned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman nearly three years ago. Those eligible will be able to choose between an annual renewable option or permanent residency, with indefinite leave to remain in exchange for a higher, one-off fee. Saudi government officials have told Arab News that the scheme now awaits cabinet approval. “This is a very positive and long-awaited step,” Sehr Kamran, President of the Center for Pakistan and Gulf Studies, told Arab News. “It will give confidence to the expatriate community, especially the investors, since many people had been losing their businesses to Kafeels (Saudi sponsors).”
Once approved, this new system will end the need for expatriates to have a local sponsor, or “kafeel.” For those who already bend the rules by constantly renewing limited visitor visas, there will no longer be “visa runs” every few months. It will also eliminate long queues at embassies.
Without a Kafeel, a foreigner cannot do business in Saudi Arabia, and a local sponsor has controlling share over businesses, often leading to disputes.
“The biggest benefit [of the new scheme] is that Pakistanis who have been living there are aware of their language, and they can invest in small and medium size businesses and employ other Pakistanis without relying on local partners,” Rizwan-ul-Haq, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia told Arab News.
“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,” he added.
Pakistan’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia stood at $1.871 billion in 2017-18 with exports amounting to $170 million and imports at $1.7 billion. Since 1971, Pakistanis have contributed toward building the Kingdom’s infrastructure. They remit nearly $6 billion from Saudi Arabia every year.
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.
Farhan Ahmed, the CEO of an Islamabad-based travel and tourism company, said Riyadh’s decision was encouraging for Pakistan’s business community.
“This is a very positive and encouraging move. It gives hope to the business community to go and invest there without concerns over the protection of their investment,” Ahmed said, adding that he would definitely consider availing the opportunity “after proper consideration.”


Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

Updated 12 January 2020

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

  • Work on foreign minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States being done
  • Pakistan’s strong relations with regional countries has made it an important player

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated on Thursday that the country was going to play its role in restoring peace in the Middle East by working with other international stakeholders in the region.

“Pakistan welcomes de-escalation and wants to play its role in ensuring peace and stability in the region. We have seen that indication in United States President [Donald] Trump’s speech and are evaluating its contours,” the country’s foreign office spokesperson, Aisha Farooqui, said in her weekly media briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

She said that Pakistan’s geographical position, along with its strong relations with regional countries and the United States, had made it a significant player in the Middle East.

“Pakistan has maintained that war is not the solution to any issue and made it clear that it will not become part of any regional conflict,” she said.

The spokesperson noted that Islamabad had enhanced its efforts to defuse tensions in the region and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had contacted his counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and many other important states in this connection.

“All the international players, including Saudi Arabia, have said that the region cannot afford another war and asked for restraint from both parties [the US and Iran]. It’s a collective objective of all countries to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East,” she said.

Commenting on the foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the US, she said that “work on these tours has already started and they will take place as soon as dates are finalized with the respective countries.”

“We are very mindful for our brotherly and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other regional countries. Pakistan and the US also enjoy longstanding relations and have contacts with each other through multiple forums including political and military leadership,” Farooqui said, adding that the foreign office had established a task force to continuously monitor the situation in the Middle East and inform the government about it along with its suggestions on a daily basis.

The spokesperson expressed hope that recent developments in the Middle East would not affect the ongoing Afghan peace process.

“Pakistan hopes that progress made on Afghan peace process will not come to a halt and the world community will not lose its focus as a result of the ongoing tensions in the Middle East,” she said.

Asked about the safety of Pakistani nationals in Iraq, she said the country’s embassy in Baghdad was on the alert to deal with any emergency situation.

“We are concerned about the safety of Pakistani citizens in Iraq and have issued an advisory in this regard. We have also instructed our mission in Baghdad to remain vigilant to deal with any emergency,” Farooqui said.