Iqama does not mean Saudi citizenship but offers a list of advantages to holders
Thousands of applications belonging to 27 nationalities from 50 countries have been received in Saudi Arabia for 'premium residency', according to local media reports.
Bandar Suleiman Al-Ayed, CEO of the Premium Residency Centre (PRC), is quoted by the Saudi Gazette as saying that delivery of the first batch of Special Privilege Iqama - commonly referred to as the Saudi “green card” - are due to be delivered in the “coming weeks”.
He revealed that doctors, engineers, investors and people seeking stability in the country were among those to have expressed an interest in the iqama since applications opened on June 23.
The Special Privilege Iqama does not entitle the holder to Saudi citizenship, but offers advantages when it comes to investment, jobs and mobility without the need for a sponsor. It also doesn’t require a mandatory period of stay inside the kingdom.
“The kingdom welcomes everyone and the process of applying for this iqama is available to anyone who meets the relevant criteria, whether it is for their siblings and friends residing in the kingdom or for those who are willing to come and settle down in the kingdom,” Al-Ayed is quoted as saying.
Expatriates who hold the iqama can own real estate, rent out properties, educational and health services and other utilities as part of the executive regulations.
The Special Privilege Iqama Law was approved by the Council of Ministers in May this year and is available to highly skilled expats and owners of capital funds.
The programme offers a permanent residency for SAR800,000 ($213,000) and a one-year but renewable residency costing SAR100,000 ($26,665.24), according to the online portal for registrations.
As well as the paying the high fee, applicants must be at least 21 years old, prove financial solvency and have a clean criminal record and bill of health.
The idea for a long-term Saudi residency programme was first floated in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as a part of his plan to reduce the economy’s reliance on oil and boost foreign direct investment.
At the time, he estimated the programme would generate about $10 billion in annual revenue by 2020.