Saudi green card 'would cut remittances by 30 percent'

Experts say permanent residency system would substantially boost kingdom’s revenues
Saudi green card 'would cut remittances by 30 percent'
By Sarah Townsend
Mon 11 Apr 2016 12:28 PM

Introducing a US-style green card in Saudi Arabia would cut foreign remittances from the kingdom by around 30 percent, local media reported.

Saudi Gazette cited several sources – some unnamed – as saying the proposal announced by Saudi Arabia’s deputy Crown Prince would add billions to national coffers.

In a five-hour interview with Bloomberg last week, Mohammed bin Salman, who is also chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, said the government was planning to introduce a permanent residency card system for expats as part of plans to raise $100 billion of revenues annually by 2020.

The new system would be similar to the US ‘green card’ system, which allows immigrants to live and work in the country permanently. This proposal and a plan to charge companies a fee for hiring more foreign workers could raise $10 billion each a year, bin Salman said.

The move would cut remittances by 30 percent and help to keep billions of Saudi riyals within the kingdom, sources told Saudi Gazette this week.

The newspaper quoted Nidal Ridwan, chairman of the Federation of Labor Committees, as saying the new system would also help Saudi Arabia to minimise the negative impacts of illegal ‘tasattur’ (cover-up) businesses and the complex sponsorship system.

Under the system, non-Saudi would be able to enjoy all the benefits available to Saudi nationals including medical and banking services.

“You know the Green Card holders enjoy all the rights US citizens enjoy except the right to nomination, election and joining the armed forces. I believe the same thing will happen in Saudi Arabia once the new system is implemented,” Ridwan was quoted as saying.

However, to win permanent residency, applicants should have specific academic qualifications and professional skills, as well as a minimum investment fund, to add value to the Saudi economy and society.

Saudi analyst Ahmed Al Khateeb added: “It will give an opportunity for expats having good revenue to invest in the Kingdom’s businesses and real estate.

“This will help reduce foreign remittances to a great extent because of the presence of attractive investment windows within the kingdom.”

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