Mothers, children, citizenship and the law
The rights of children with a Saudi mother and a foreign father are a sensitive and important social issue that can directly affect a family as an entity, as well as the circumstances of each of its members. Over the years, there have been numerous campaigns to grant naturalized Saudi citizenship to the children of a Saudi mother. In fact, such children already enjoy many rights and privileges guaranteed by the law.
Saudi women married to non-Saudis are entitled to all services and benefits provided by the Kingdom; their children, too, have the full right to health care, education and employment, provided the marriage is documented and approved by government authorities.
A Saudi woman married to a foreigner may arrange for those of her children who reside in the Kingdom to be under her sponsorship. If they are abroad, she may bring them to the Kingdom provided they have a clean security record, and the Kingdom will cover all the residency related fees and expenses.
As to employment, children of a Saudi mother may work in the private sector without having to transfer their sponsorship, and are counted as Saudi for the purpose of calculating Saudization rates. However, if their mother dies, children are required to transfer their visa to a new sponsor in order to continue renewing their residency; a new job rank will be determined by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development according to their educational qualifications.
The children of Saudi women also benefit from the Citizen Account Program, which provides financial support to cope with increases in the price of gasoline, electricity and other utilities, as part of the Saudi economic reform drive. To qualify for this support, the beneficiary must reside permanently in the Kingdom, and may not be abroad for more than 90 days in any 12-month period.
It is any country’s sovereign right to decide whether to grant naturalization. At the same time, any citizen has the right to ask for the naturalization of their children by all lawful means, especially since most children of foreign fathers live with their Saudi mothers in the Kingdom, and are socially, psychologically and practically associated with the Saudi community.
Until the issue of naturalization is decided, more attention should be given to the rights and privileges guaranteed to such children, which entrench their involvement in the society of which they are an important and effective part.
Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif