A Million Expatriates to Benefit From New Citizenship Law

P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Thu, 2004-10-21 03:00

JEDDAH, 21 October 2004 — Expatriates of all nationalities are entitled to apply for Saudi citizenship and their travels abroad with re-entry visas will not disqualify them, press reports said yesterday quoting senior officials.

Nasser ibn Hamad Al-Hanaya, undersecretary for civil status at the Interior Ministry, said the executive bylaw for the Kingdom’s amended naturalization law would be ready within four months. “We will look into applications only after the executive bylaw is issued,” Okaz Arabic daily quoted Hanaya as saying.

He estimated that more than a million expatriates would benefit by the amended law, which was passed by the Council of Ministers on Monday. There are nearly 8.8 million expatriates, mostly Asians and Arabs, in the Kingdom.

“Going abroad on re-entry visas will not disqualify an applicant,” the official said referring to the condition that an applicant must have stayed not less than 10 years in the Kingdom continuously.

Referring to the job requirements mentioned by the new law, Hanaya said holders of degrees in medicine, computer science and other branches of science and technology would be given priority. “The jobs required by the country will change in accordance with new developments,” he pointed out.

The amended law increased the applicants’ period of stay in the Kingdom from five to 10 years in order to help them acclimatize with the country’s culture and traditions and interact positively with members of society, he explained.

Spelling out the clauses for revoking citizenship, Hanaya said a person would lose his Saudi citizenship if he works for the interest of another country or commits treachery or plots against the country or joins a foreign army or gains citizenship of another country without taking prior permission from Saudi authorities.

Shubaily ibn Majdoue Al-Qarni, chairman of the security committee which supervised amendments to the law, said Saudi citizenship would be open for all nationals working in the Kingdom. “The law does not aim at a particular nationality. On the other hand, it covers all expatriates in the country,” he told Al-Madinah.

But Al-Watan Arabic daily reported that the naturalization law would not be applicable to Palestinians living in the Kingdom as the Arab League has instructed that Palestinians living in Arab countries should not be given citizenship to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.

Diplomatic sources have estimated the number of Palestinians in the Kingdom at about 500,000. There are large concentrations of Palestinians in the country’s western, central, eastern and northern provinces.

The amended naturalization law has brought about six remarkable changes. It increased the period of stay of an applicant from five to 10 years and insisted that an applicant must be a professional required by the country. If a Saudi husband changes his nationality, his Saudi wife would not lose her nationality as was the case in the previous law.

The citizenship, according to the previous law, will be withdrawn if a person commits any crime related to morality or undermines security within five years after naturalization. In the new law the period has been extended to 10 years. For providing false information to get citizenship, an applicant will be jailed for two years and fined SR30,000, instead of SR1,000 specified by the previous law.

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