Saudi Arabia granted 73 foreigners premium residency under a new programme to attract overseas investment by enabling selected people to buy property and do business without a Saudi sponsor, reported Bloomberg.
The Kingdom received thousands of applications after offering permanent residency for SAR 800,000 ($213,000) or a one-year renewable permit for SAR 100,000.
The Saudi Arabian Premium Residency Centre (SAPRC) stated that the first batch of recipients come from 19 countries and include investors, doctors, engineers and financiers. The centre also said that the first batch granted Premium Residency consists of applicants who are already residing in Saudi Arabia and applicants from abroad.
Saudi Arabia’s move is a landmark move in a region where many overseas workers are subject to some of the world’s most restrictive residency rules. The premium residencies also allow holders to switch jobs, exit the Kingdom easily and sponsor visas for family members.
The idea for a long-term Saudi residency was first floated in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and at the time, the Crown Prince estimated the programme would generate about $10 billion in annual revenue by 2020.
While Saudi Arabia is seeking to encourage the affluent to stay, monthly fees imposed on foreign workers and their families, along with sluggish economic growth, have prompted hundreds of thousands of other expats to leave. Those levies are designed to spur private businesses to hire Saudi nationals as citizen unemployment hovers above 12 per cent.