Saudi Arabia has granted 73 foreigners "premium" residency under a new programme to attract overseas investment by enabling selected people to buy property and do business without a Saudi sponsor.
Saudi Arabia's Premium Residency Centre said it had received thousands of applications through its online portal from inside and outside the country over the past few months. The first batch of recipients come from 19 countries and include investors, doctors, engineers and financiers.
The changes are part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's economic and social reform plans to diversify the economy and steer it away from its reliance on oil.
The kingdom welcomes everyone"
"The kingdom welcomes everyone. Applying for a premium residency is available to anyone who meets the relevant conditions, whether they are residing in the kingdom or those wishing to come and settle here," said the centre's chief executive, Bandar Al Ayed.
The premium residency offers two options: the first: a permanent residency in Saudi Arabia, obtained by the applicant after meeting the statutory requirements, and paying the amount of SAR 800,000 ($213,000) for one time; and the second, a one-year renewable residency, which the applicant receives after fulfilling the statutory conditions and paying SAR 100,000 Saudi Riyals ($27,000) per year.
Applicants must be at least 21 years old, prove they are financially solvent, have no criminal record and have a clean bill of health.
The new system will not undermine citizens' rights, rather it will serve their interests, the crown prince said in an interview with Al Arabia TV.
Analysts say the program will largely benefit wealthy individuals who have lived in Saudi Arabia for years without permanent residency or multinational companies seeking to do long-term business in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is currently home to some 10 million overseas workers.