Back in May 2016, we reported that expats in Saudia Arabia would benefit from the nation’s economic shake-up. We revealed that the country planned to introduce a US-style green card system within the next five years.
It is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 government initiative. Essentially, the country wants to move away from its reliance on cheap oil production, which is currently accounting for 75% of the nation’s GDP. It was believed that by offering expats the card and improving their rights, that Saudi Arabia would become a more attractive option for overseas investors.
As it stands, expatriates can only reside in Saudi Arabia by investing through the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority or by being part of the Kafala sponsorship system, which suffers from severe restrictions.
The announcement of a new green card was music to expat’s ears, especially as it would allow for property investment without a sponsor. Foreign residents would also be able to benefit from a Saudi pension scheme and be free of the harsh financial restraints.
However, this blissful bubble has burst for many. It turns out that Saudi Arabia is not just letting any good-willing expat apply for a green card.
Vice Chairman of the Shoura Council Financial Committee, Fahad bin Juma, stated to Al-Watan newspaper that expats would have to meet certain criteria to be allowed a Saudi green card. The high powers of the Ministry of Commerce and Investment would then deem if individuals were suitable.
In order to meet the eligibility criteria, expats applying for a green card must possess professional qualities or scientific skills that Saudi Arabia is lacking. Alternatively, they can be company owners who can invest in the country.
However, many are fearful of being bitten twice. Approximately 10 to 15 years ago, expats were given investment opportunities in Saudia Arabia and flocked to the country in their thousands. However, due to corruption, red tape and unfair closures, the majority lost their fortunes and are struggling to this day to find their feet.
Many argue that the criteria set out for green card applicants is unfair. Whereas others are warning investors to steer clear of the allure of the country. No doubt more will be revealed as Saudi Vision 2030 becomes clearer over the years.