The Saudi cabinet has approved a special residency scheme similar to green card systems applicable in other countries, aimed at attracting wealthy and high-skilled expats, the Saudi Press agency reported.
The 'Privileged Iqama' residency scheme allows expats to live and work in the kingdom without the need of a local sponsor (Kafeel) for the first time.
Following the cabinet decision, service centres will be opened within 90 days to process applications against certain fees. No specific fees amounts yet were mentioned in the announcement.
Holders of this type of residency will also have a family status. They will be also entitled to use the processing service designated for Saudis at airports.
Eligible residents should have a valid passport, adequate financial resources and not be less than 21 years in age, Saudi television Al Arabiya reported.
Moreover, applicants must have no criminal records and obtain medical reports proving they suffer no contagious diseases.
Last week, the law was passed by the Shura Council. Local media said the plan would allow wealthy and high- skilled foreign expats to choose between defined and renewable residency or permanent stay in return for a high, one-off fee. It would also allow them free movement, ability to own properties and to do business in the kingdom.
Currently over 10 million expats work and live in Saudi Arabia under a sponsorship system that requires them to be sponsored by a Saudi employer and be issued an exit/re-entry visa whenever they want to leave the country.
The new residency scheme — commonly referred to as the Saudi "green card" — was first mentioned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman nearly three years ago as part of the Vision 2030 plan to open up the kingdom and diversify its economy.
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