Saudi Arabia's Shura Council, a quasi-parliament, has approved a plan for introducing a Green Card-style residence system for foreigners aimed at attracting investors, Saudi media reported.
The new ‘privileged' iqama (residency permit) law will seek to provide "highly-skilled" and "qualified" foreigners residency without the need for a Saudi sponsor.
Under the law, the holder of such an iqama will have family status, can recruit workers, own property and transport in the kingdom, can obtain visit visas for relatives, can freely enter and exit the country and will also have the use of designated queues at airports.
We are working on a specific program similar to the green card"
Under the system, which requires a guarantee of specific fees, there are two categories: An extended iqama and a temporary one.
Eligible expatriates must have a valid passport with a credit report, no criminal records and obtain medical reports proving they suffer no contagious diseases. It was not immediately clear when the "privileged iqama" system will take effect.
Last month, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development announced the launch of its Gold Card extended residence programme.
The ministry called on consultants and agencies to analyse the possibility of providing incentives to beneficiaries.
The scheme is part of the Quality of Life Program 2020, which was launched in 2018 by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs.
The aim of the Gold Card programme is to promote expatriates' engagement with Saudi culture, and to increase acceptance of other cultures among Saudis, Arab News reported.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had revealed in 2016 that the kingdom plans to introduce a United States-style green card system to help the kingdom reduce remittances and also get rid of its sponsorship system.
In an interview with Bloomberg, when asked what "non-oil revenue measures" the kingdom will likely undertake to diversify the economy, he said: "We are working on a specific program similar to the green card."
The Shura Council is made up of 150 members, all are appointed by the king. According to the council's system, approved proposals and laws are referred to the king, who also heads the cabinet.
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