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

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.”


Saudi artist reimagines Jeddah through ’80s pop art

The illustrations are figments, romanticizing the streets people know well. They expose the genuine fondness Jeddawis carry in their hearts for the city, says the artist, who goes by the name of ZHA on social media. (Supplied)
Updated 09 August 2020

Saudi artist reimagines Jeddah through ’80s pop art

  • Zaina Hassan feels that love and belonging we feel toward the coastal city are very real and deserve to be illuminated
  • Deep Blue is an artwork that portrays a girl walking along the new Corniche with the sea as her background. It speaks of moments when you feel melancholic or blue for reasons unknown to you

JEDDAH: Every Jeddawi has an obsession with their city; the elderly reminisce about historic Jeddah in the old days, while the youth romanticize the modern city through photography and social media.

One Saudi artist, Zaina Hassan, 23, who goes by the name ZHA on social media, chose to express her attachment to Jeddah by reimagining it through ’80s pop art.
“To many of us, Jeddah is a city too familiar for words, for beautiful odes and formal praise. Yet, the love and belonging we feel toward it are very real and deserve to be illuminated,” she told Arab News.
She added: “My deep affection toward the city only grew while I was away, and all its beauty that was previously hidden in plain sight became visible to me in my nostalgia.”
The artist has completed eight pieces; the first artwork, shared on Instagram is called “Show You the World” and portrays two people walking toward the Globe Roundabout in northern Jeddah.

FASTFACTS

• Re-Imagine Exhibition opened on July 27 at Medd Cafe, and will continue until August end.

• Zaina Hassan’s artwork will be available for purchase.

“This piece is dedicated to people who dream of seeing the world but find themselves stuck in one place. A gentle reminder that there is much to see and feel, even without getting on a plane and traveling thousands of kilometers,” she said.
The other pieces follow the same idea, where the location reflects certain feelings or emotions of the characters in the artwork.
“Deep Blue” is an artwork that portrays a girl walking along the new Corniche with the sea as her background. “It speaks of moments when you feel melancholic or blue for reasons unknown to you,” Hassan said.


“Rosie” is another artwork that shows a couple standing together lovingly, with the old Saudi airplane monument behind them. The monument symbolizes how every relationship is a journey, she added.
Hassan chose ’80s pop art as her medium because it combines youthful content with a vintage appearance, which she is very fond of.
“For the love of everything vintage. Comic book art or ’80s pop art has a nostalgic yet youthful and modern look to it, so it was the perfect artistic style to merge the old with the new.”
The artist began sharing her work on Instagram during the difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
“I first thought of the theme behind the first few pieces in the midst of the COVID-19 avalanche, when isolation and uncertainty were still unexplored territories to most of us; the main incentive behind the theme was homesickness,” Hassan added.
She said it was not artwork by other artists that inspired her, but things from her daily life such as songs, movies and stories.
“I found that listening to certain songs inspires me so much more vividly than looking at or studying actual art pieces. Obviously, comic book illustrators have inspired me enough to use this specific style and guided me with regard to colors and composition, but I believe that the real inspiration behind my artworks’ ideas come from songs, as well as movie scenes, pictures and stories,” she said.
“Basically, anything that is able to transport you to an alternative reality for a period of time. So many things inspire me and influence me daily, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact source.”
Hassan said the illustrations were figments, romanticizing the streets people know well, but they exposed the genuine fondness Jeddawis carry in their hearts for this coastal city.
To many people, she said, the landmarks portrayed in Hassan’s artworks carry many memories of their youth — their favorite childhood place, where they used to hang out in their teenage years, or even a place they used to pass by on their way to their loved ones’ old houses. “It’s amazing how memories connect people to places on such a deep level.”
The main theme of her collection is not solely romantic as much as it is soulful, and it encompasses romance, friendship, adventure, and even melancholy.