Call it the “Privileged Iqama” system or “Saudi green card,” the end result is still the same. This new residency scheme that has just been approved by the Saudi Cabinet will allow skilled foreigners, capital investors and entrepreneurs to live and work in Saudi Arabia without the need for a sponsor.
Having lived in the US, the UK and other countries in my youth and adulthood, I saw the impact of residency schemes that encourage people to migrate for opportunities, and experienced first-hand the growth that these schemes brought to these countries. I am very optimistic that this Saudi scheme will also bring more non-oil dependent economic growth and prosperity to our country, that will help us achieve our 2030 vision.
So what will this scheme mean for foreign entrepreneurs wanting to enter the Saudi market? Well, first and foremost, it will allow them to freely declare their actual status as “entrepreneurs,” and work full time on their startups without taking a full-time day job in order to have legal status in Saudi. That alone is a big burden lifted. Focusing on their startups is what will take entrepreneurs to the next level, and expand their businesses. Giving them the freedom to do what they need to expand their businesses and recruit who they see fit is essential.
Speaking to my American co-founder, Tim Abbott, at our company Upskillable about what this may mean to him as a part-time entrepreneur in Saudi, was revealing. Tim told me: “I think this scheme will bring a wave of innovation to the Kingdom, and encourage many bright minds to set up shop here. Additionally, some expats believe it will eliminate the exploitation they feel has happened in the past when trying to start businesses with local partners with no legal framework. Furthermore, it will allow entrepreneurs to build some of their innovative ideas in the Kingdom, instead of going to other jurisdictions when they don’t really want to do business in those places. The excitement around this new development is contagious and people are simply waiting for the details to be ironed out.”
This is going to be a big economic stimulus for Saudi Arabia.
• Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj is a best-selling Saudi author, an international public speaker and an entrepreneurship mentor.