Saudi's Privileged Iqama system to allow residency, work without kafeel
Saudi Arabia's Cabinet has approved the new iqama visa system that has previously been touted as Saudi's 'Green Card'
Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet – chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – has approved the Privileged Iqama special residency system, which – for the first time – will allow some expats to live and work in Saudi Arabia without needing a local sponsor, or kafeel, a significant difference from Saudi's existing iqama – an Arabic translation of 'residence permit' – system, which requires residence visas to be granted by a local sponsor or employer to live and work in Saudi Arabia.
State-run news outlet Saudi Press Agency (SPA) confirmed the approval on 14 May, following a Cabinet session in Jeddah that was chaired by the Saudi King.
According to Saudi news outlet Arab News, the new system offers benefits to “highly skilled [expats] and owners of capital funds”.
The updated expat residency system, touted as the kingdom’s version of the Green Card – a document that permits foreign nationals to live and work in the US – has previously also been explored in Saudi.
In April 2016, Arab News reported that the Saudi Shura Council would take a closer look at the Saudi Green Card proposal as soon as other government bodies had studied it.
HRH Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia, announced sweeping reforms during the same month as part of his Vision 2030 economic diversification mandate.
The Crown Prince's plans covered how the updated residence system would be introduced for Muslims and Arabs within the next five years as a source of revenue.
Similar expat residency schemes are also being rolled out in the UAE.
In May 2018, the UAE Cabinet approved a range of measure designed to boost the country's economy.
This included a decision to allow 100% foreign ownership of UAE-based companies for international investors, and offering residency visas of up to 10 years for investors, doctors, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, innovators, and other similarly highly specialised professionals.
Many UAE property developers applauded the move, largely aimed at attracting international investors and skilled workers.