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Sun 13 May 2007 12:00 AM

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Saudi confirms expat citizenship plans

Expatriates who have qualifications in hi-tech professions will be granted citizenship, kingdom confirms.

Saudi Arabia has reaffirmed its commitment to grant citizenship to expatriates who have qualifications in hi-tech professions.A naturalisation programme was first discussed in October 2004 when it was announced that expats with degrees in medicine, computer science, and other branches of science and technology would be given priority for citizenship.

A requirement for expatriates to have spent 10 years living in Saudi Arabia was relaxed at that time.

Applications for citizenship have been accepted since May 2005.

It is thought that up to one million of the seven million expatriates estimated to be living in the Kingdom might be eligible.

Citizenship will not deliver the same rights of a Saudi Arabian national, but is expected to remove the requirement for a migrant worker to be tied to a sponsor; a rule that greatly restricts freedom to switch jobs. Citizens would also be able to travel freely in and out of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister, Prince Nayef Bin Abdel Aziz, reaffirmed last Monday that King Abdullah had agreed to grant citizenship to foreign residents with scientific qualifications, but gave no further details.

It is expected that citizenship will be dependent on a points system that was first announced in 2005.

At that time, it was stated that applicants must accumulate a minimum of 23 points to qualify in the first stage of the process based on the length of stay in the country, the number of family members dependent on the applicant, and the level of qualification.

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