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. 

Opinion

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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 Ministry of Culture launches platform for scholarship applications

Updated 20 January 2020

Saudi Ministry of Culture launches platform for scholarship applications

  • The scholarship program is open to those who wish to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. degree in various cultural and arts fields
  • The courses provided by the program include music, theater, visual arts

RIYADH: The Ministry of Culture has launched a website for applications from students who wish to join the Culture Scholarship Program. From Sunday, applications can be made at https://engage.moc.gov.sa/scholarships on three tracks: Self-financed students, pre-accepted students and the new students. The website features the application forms, benefits and general conditions for each track, as well as a list of relevant educational institutions.
The scholarship program is open to those who wish to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. degree in various cultural and arts fields from the world’s most prominent educational institutions.
The courses provided by the program include music, theater, visual arts (drawing, sculpture, art theory, calligraphy, art history, photography and cinematography) filmmaking, literature and linguistics, archaeology, culinary arts, design, architecture and libraries and museums.
The program offers several advantages for both self-financed students and pre-accepted students. Scholarships cover all tuition fees, financial support, living expenses, health care and return flights to the scholarship’s location for both the student and their companion.
Students in these two tracks are offered guidance and assessment programs to check their academic development during the program, as well as getting support in other aspects needed for their advancement. After their graduation, students in these two tracks can also join training programs abroad for a maximum of two years.
The program offers several advantages to new students who have not yet received acceptance. The program helps them to get the qualifications they need to be accepted by universities by offering assistance in overcoming obstacles such as language proficiency and interpersonal skills.
The program supports the students by organizing training workshops to develop their talents and skills. It introduces them to specialized experts in the field related to their scholarships. The program saves students time and effort and supports them throughout the whole registration process, by helping them write their resumes and complete their portfolios professionally.
The scholarship program is an educational first in Saudi Arabia, and is part of a Ministry of Culture initiative to develop national cadres specialized in cultural and arts fields so as to develop the sector and meet the increasing requirements of the labor market.