Saudi Arabia is to offer citizenship to experts and talented creatives as part of a bid to modernise and diversify the ultraconservative kingdom's economy, local media has reported.
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.
It aims to attract "scientists, intellectuals and innovators from around the world, to enable the kingdom to become a diverse hub... that the Arab world would be proud of," Saudi Project, a government platform, said on Twitter.
برؤية الملك #سلمان_بن_عبدالعزيز #السعوديه_تجنس_المبدعين ويستهدف هذا القرار استقطاب أهل العلم والفكر والمبدعين من كل أنحاء العالم لتكون المملكة حاضنة وجامعة علمية ضخمة يفخر بها العالمين العربي والإسلامي وتكون فعالة في بناء العالم وتنميته pic.twitter.com/QISduHrE7i— مشاريع السعودية (@SaudiProject) December 4, 2019
Saudi Arabia's King Salman ordered the royal decree on Thursday. Experts in the fields of forensic and medical science, technology, agriculture, nuclear and renewable energy, oil and gas and artificial intelligence will be considered.
Islamic clerics will be invited to take up Saudi citizenship, according to a statement.
If realised, the move would see a major break from current Saudi citizenship law which only allows the naturalisation of foreign citizens who have held permenant residency in the kingdom for at least five years.
"It also covers domains needed by Saudi Arabia due to its geographical nature such as distinguished scientists in the desalination technology and helping in attaining objectives of expediting development," it added.
The naturalisation step is aimed at drawing distinguished and creative people from around the world to come to live and work in Saudi Arabia, the report said.
The step follows Saudi Vision 2030, a scheme launched in 2016 with the aim of diversifying the oil-dependent Saudi economy and promoting national development "to the benefit of the country and citizens".
Last month, the kingdom issued its first batch of "premium" residence visas for investors, doctors, engineers or financiers who wish to live in the kingdom.
The programme offers foreign nationals and their families long-term visas and privileges that were previously not available to non-Saudis.
The kingdom also announced the launch of its new tourist visas in September that will grant individuals multiple entries to the country.