Over the last few weeks the social media feeds of expats
living in Saudi Arabia have been over-run by an exciting breaking news story.
The story claimed that Saudi citizenship was to be automatically granted to expat
children born in the Kingdom, something that would make the family lives of
numerous expats far less problematic.
As the title to this article suggests, however, the story is
claimed to be a hoax by the Saudi Arabian government. Quite where the story
originated is unclear at present, though the viral nature of the story which
saw it rapidly spread through the expat population of the Gulf States shows
just how appealing the story is for many people.
At present one of the biggest problems for expats in Saudi
Arabia are those who are married to a native Saudi. At the time of writing, if
a Saudi women weds an expatriate man, their children – even when born in the
kingdom – are still classed as expats. They receive the same benefits that
their expat fathers enjoy, which can result in insecurities about how long the
family can prevail when not all members are legal citizens of the Kingdom.
At present when a foreign-born women starts a family with a
Saudi-born husband however, their children are automatically granted
citizenship. As a result it has long been considered unfair that families in
which the father is an expatriate do not enjoy the same levels of protection.
For decades there has been pressure – and hushed hopes – that this might
Imagine, then, the excitement recently when just such a
story broke on social media sites around the world. No wonder that anyone
involved with Saudi Arabia was keen to pass the story on with their own
opinions – whether they saw it as good news or bad.
The validity of the story was quashed by the Saudi
government who explained why such a policy was not on the cards at present. In
brief, like many Gulf nations, Saudi Arabia currently does not charge income
tax on any sums earned in the country. This same tax-free status is granted to
both nationals and expats.
While this helps to make the Middle East such a tempting
location for expats looking to make as much money as possible, this has also
created something of a financial problem. With no income from tax returns, the
Saudi government therefore pays out considerable sums of money each year to
maintain public services with the minimum of income from the population.
Suddenly granting hundreds of thousands of children
citizenship would therefore put significant strain on the public purse. Whereas
in many Western nations each new citizen became a source of tax revenue that
helped to support the country, no such system currently exists in Saudi Arabia,
meaning that every case of granted citizen is a burden on the government.