Virginia, US

Jun 25 2019

First Permanent Residence Program Launched

Saudi Arabia

At a Glance

  • The Saudi Arabian government has implemented the country’s first permanent residence program for foreign nationals by launching the Premium Residency Card online application platform.
  • The Premium Residency Card, which was first announced three years ago, will allow eligible self-sponsored foreign nationals to obtain a residence permit for up to one year (renewable) or for an unlimited period of time.

The situation

The Saudi Arabian government has implemented the country’s first permanent residence program for foreign nationals by launching the Premium Residency Card (PRC) online application platform.

Premium Residency Card requirements

Details of the Premium Residency Card include the following:

  • Eligibility requirements. To qualify for the Premium Residency Card, foreign nationals must prove that they have sufficient financial resources (no amount is specified), a clean criminal record and that they are free from contagious diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis. Foreign nationals applying from Saudi Arabia must hold legal status in Saudi Arabia and must settle all matters relating to their previous residence, including any contractual obligations.
  • Fees. Eligible foreign nationals may apply for one of two categories of the PRC at the following costs:
    • PRC for Limited Duration (up to one-year, renewable): SAR 100,000 (approximately USD 26,667) per year; or
    • PRC for Unlimited Duration: SAR 800,000 (approximately USD 213,334), paid once.
  • Entry permit. It is not yet clear if those applying from outside Saudi Arabia will be issued an entry permit, and if so, what the terms and conditions surrounding the entry permit will be.
  • Medical insurance requirement. Foreign nationals who obtain a PRC must maintain valid medical insurance.

 

Benefits of Premium Residency Card

PRC holders are granted numerous benefits that other foreign nationals may not be able to obtain in Saudi Arabia, including:

  • Travel. PRC holders can travel without restriction in and out of Saudi Arabia without obtaining a separate visa; however, they are not subject to freedom of movement within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and must comply with the entry regulations of each GCC Member State.
  • Sponsorship and dependents. PRC holders can sponsor residence and visitor visas for their spouses and immediate relatives and employment visas for domestic workers. Dependents of foreign nationals applying for PRC are exempt from government fees and from the dependents’ levy introduced by Saudi Arabia in July 2017.
  • Right to work. PRC holders and their dependents may work in private sector companies and can change jobs; they are, however, not allowed to work in positions that are restricted to Saudi nationals and their employers are not exempt from the fees applicable to the employment of foreign nationals.
  • Maximum duration of stay after PRC cancelation or withdrawal. After withdrawing or canceling the PRC, the foreign national may stay in Saudi Arabia for up to 60 days unless otherwise approved by the President of the Premium Residency Center (discretionary approval process; approvals are not granted for longer than 180 days in total).

 

Impact

The permanent residence program will allow eligible foreign nationals to reside in Saudi Arabia for extended periods of time without having to renew their residence permit or obtaining employer sponsorship.

Background

  • History of PRC law. Although the permanent residence program was announced almost three years ago, it took until May 2019 for the draft law regulating the issuance of self-sponsored residence permits to be approved by the Shura Council.
  • Regional trend. Other countries in the region have started to implement permanent residence and long-term residence visa schemes. For example, in April, Qatar became the first Arab Gulf nation to introduce permanent residence for foreign nationals with 20 years’ consecutive legal residence and Qatari-born nationals with 10 consecutive years of legal residence. Furthermore, the United Arab Emirates introduced a long-term residence permit program foreign nationals with exceptional talents in February 2019.

 

Looking ahead

The program is meant to attract foreign investment in Saudi Arabia in the wake of faltering oil prices, which were causing an economic decline. Additional information regarding the program is expected to be released in the coming months and Fragomen will provide updates as they become available.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to mideast@fragomen.com.