A new Saudi Arabia immigration law that the Saudi Shura Council voted in favor of lets foreign nationals obtain residence status known as Special Privilege Iqama. This status is similar to the Green Card immigration plan in the United States. Officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, those having a Green Card can live and work permanently in the United States.
Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qassabi stated that foreign nationals will receive Special Privilege Iqama only if they meet eligibility requirements and meet specific criteria. The new law received Cabinet approval, issuing its landmark decision after reviewing the Council of Economic and Development Affairs recommendation.
Saudi Arabia Special Privilege Iqama Immigration Law: Labor Market Competition
Saudi Arabia nationals have noted some concerns about whether they would need to compete against foreign nationals who participate in and benefit from the new Saudi Arabia immigration law. Minister Al-Qassabi emphasized the kingdom is highly focused in its approach. As a result, foreign nationals eligible to participate include:
- Specific category of investors
- Holders of residence status who will add value
By focusing its approach, foreign nationals who obtain Special Privilege Iqama Status will not compete against Saudi citizens for jobs.
Special Privilege Iqama Choices
Foreign nationals can apply for and obtain Special Privilege Iqama status. To obtain this status, foreign nationals must meet specific qualifications and:
- Choose between annual renewable status or permanent residency status
- Pay a requisite fee that varies depending on choice of status
- Permanent status requires a higher one-time fee
- One-year annual renewable status will cost SR100,000 ($26,666)
- Permanent residency status will cost SR800,000 ($213,333)
Those granted Special Privilege Iqama gain the right to live, work, own businesses, and own property in the Kingdom. Expatriates will have equal rights to Saudi citizens except for actual citizenship, and access to services such as schools and government-provided healthcare.
Why is Saudi Arabia Creating Special Privilege Iqama?
In a word, economy. Saudi Arabia’s creation of this program came about as a part of a plan to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil and increase foreign direct investment. This effort will help the economy diversify into many new markets. New business investment will strengthen the kingdom’s revenue and support economic growth.
In 2016, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled Vision 2030, a wide ranging plan to reduce government expenditures and increase foreign and domestic investment. This plan is expected to transform Saudi Arabia from a nation dependent on oil, to one with a diverse, private-sector-driven economy. Special Privilege Iqama status helps the private sector quickly add qualified employees.
What is Vision 2030?
- Saudi Arabia’s status as the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds
- Determination to become a global investment powerhouse
- Transforming Saudi Arabia into a global hub connecting Africa, Asia, and Europe
- Quality of Life
- Financial Sector Development
- Fiscal Balance
- National Transformation
- Public Investment Fund
- National Companies Promotion
- National Industrial Development and Logistics
- Strategic Partner
- Hajj and Omrah
- Human Capital Development (in conjunction with Special Privilege Iqama)
- National Character Enrichment
What Does This Mean?
Companies operating in Saudi Arabia should expect to see an increase in foreign nationals looking to obtain Special Privilege Iqama status. They should look into regulations and program management that will be administered by a new Special Privilege Iqama Center.
Foreign nationals looking to obtain Special Privilege Iqama status in Saudi Arabia should inquire about the new immigration law.
Employers not currently in Saudi Arabia might consider the kingdom as a strategic location for corporate expansion and business investment. The services of an International Professional Employer Organization (PEO) may be useful to help an employer enter Saudi Arabia and quickly test the local market.
What Should Employers do About Special Privilege Iqama?
Employers in Saudi Arabia should review their company’s growth plans and requirements for jobs across all levels of skill sets. They should also determine how their company’s growth plans will impact the jobs required to meet business plans and goals. The new Saudi Arabia immigration law and development of Special Privilege Iqama are designed to help transform the kingdom’s economy. As a result, employers should review their talent acquisition and management programs to ensure they align with a growing number of Special Privilege Iqama status holders.
Employers outside of Saudi Arabia should investigate the services of an International PEO. Relocation Management Companies (RMCs) can provide expert assistance to employers looking to expand their corporate presence and business investment to Saudi Arabia.
GMS’ team of global relocation experts has helped thousands of our clients develop relocation programs that attract and retain qualified employees in remote and challenging locations. Our team can help your company determine how to benefit as Saudi Arabia implements its new Special Privilege Iqama status.
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Learn best practices from Global Mobility Solutions, the relocation industry and technology experts who are dedicated to keeping you informed and connected. Contact our experts online to discuss your company’s relocation and visa program needs for Saudi Arabia as a result of its new Special Privilege Iqama status, or give us a call at 800.617.1904 or 480.922.0700 today.