In recent years, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has become increasingly accessible to foreigners. Since the introduction of the Saudi Arabia eVisa in 2019, tourists have been able to get a visa for the county online.
Previously it had been necessary to visit a KSA embassy or consulate, the Saudi Arabia eVisa application, however, is fully electronic.
Saudia Arabia is now taking further steps to encourage more foreign nationals to the nation. A new program was recently launched offering permanent residency to certain foreign nationals.
The “premium residency” permit is being made available with the aim of attracting overseas investment, as the economy of Saudi Arabia continues to evolve.
The scheme, which was approved in May 2019, is part of the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 plan announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
This plan will see the economy become more diverse, reducing dependency on oil and looking towards other industries; the future of tourism in Saudia Arabia is a key focus.
What is Saudi Premium Residency?
The Saudi Premium residency, or “privileged Iqama” scheme grants the permit holder the right to live, work, and own business and property in KSA without having a sponsor.
With premium residency (informally known as the Saudi Green Card or Golden visa), foreigners will have equal rights to Saudis in many areas of life including recruiting workers and owning a means of transportation.
In addition, expatriates with premium residency are able to leave and return to Saudia Arabia without the permission of a sponsor.
With no need to depend on a sponsor, known locally as a kafeel, establishing and running a business in KSA is more straightforward. For this reason, it is hoped that the scheme will continue to attract more foreigners to invest in Saudi Arabia.
Other benefits of Saudi Arabia’s privileged Iqama program
In addition to boosting investment and entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia, there are several other benefits associated with the new permanent residency scheme.
Expats with premium residency will benefit from family status and will be able to use the processing services for Saudia at airports, speeding up border crossing.
It is also hoped that the policy will improve social cohesion, allowing expatriate families who have grown up in Saudia Arabia to remain.
Who is eligible for Saudi Arabia premium residency?
Given that the objective of the “Privileged Iqama” scheme is to encourage investment in Saudia Arabia, it is only being made available to select groups of people.
Highly skilled workers and business people are amongst those eligible for a Saudi Green Card.
Premium residency was approved in May 2019 and, by the end of the year, had received thousands of applications. Just 73 were approved in the first batch of professionals including engineers, financiers, and doctors.
Saudia Arabia premium residency requirements
As well as being in a highly skilled professional or investor, applicants must also meet the following criteria to be considered for the scheme:
- Have a valid passport
- Be able to provide evidence of sufficient funds
- Be at least 21 years of age
How much is a Saudi Arabia Green Card?
There are 2 types of premium residency: permanent and temporary.
- A permanent residency permit comes at a cost of 800,000 Saudia riyals ($213,300 USD).
- A temporary residency permit is available and can be renewed annually, this costs 100,000 Saudia riyals ($26,700).
Considering the opportunities Saudia Arabia offers, a residency visa will be considered a worthy investment by many entrepreneurs.
Other Types of Saudi Arabia Visa
Foreigners who do not fall into the categories detailed above can stay in Saudi Arabia short term.
Accessing Saudi Arabia for leisure or cultural purposes is straightforward thanks to the electronic Saudi tourist visa. This type of visa is multiple-entry and valid for stays of up to 90 days.
Passport holders from over 45 countries are eligible for the Saudi Arabia eVisa. Travelers are required to complete a short eVisa application form which is submitted electronically along with the supporting documents. As everything is digital the request can be submitted from home 24 hours a day.
To meet all the entry requirements, applicants must have:
- A passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into Saudi Arabia
- A credit or debit card to pay the KSA eVisa fees
- A current email address
All communications and notifications are sent via email
Types of Saudia Arabia embassy visa
Various other kinds of visa and travel documents are available to foreigners, however, these must be obtained at an embassy or consulate. Visas to work, study, and carry out journalism can be requested in person at the diplomatic mission.
The Hajj and Umrah visas for Muslim pilgrims are also applied for at a Saudi Arabia embassy.