MBS's promise bears early fruition

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.

JEDDAH - One of the privileges of the sweeping reforms promised by the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman way back in 2016, has borne fruit much earlier than projected.

The recently approved Premium Residency (Special Privileged Iqamas) regulations, many experts and expats say, is essentially a fulfillment of a promise made by the Crown Prince.

On Sunday, with the Premium Residency Center on Sunday starting to receiving applications for the Premium Residency (Special Privileged Iqamas) through the electronic platform "Saprc" (saprc.gov.sa), the system for acquiring this ‘green card’ is set and up and running.

In April of 2016 in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya News Channel Crown Prince discussed the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 road map.

In that interview he also announced that Saudi Arabia would introduce a “green card” like system within five years to “allow resident expatriates to have more rights in order to improve its investment climate.”

On the ‘green card’ for expatriates in the Kingdom, the he said the scheme “will be ready within five years and will allow Muslims and Arabs to live in Saudi Arabia for a long time and will be a source for revenue for the government.”

As things are taking shape, the Crown Prince’s announcement will be put into effect two years before the assured date.

The new Premium Residency (Special Privileged Iqamas) law stipulates freedom of movement, hiring of domestic help and relaxed visit visa rules that will include relatives beyond immediate family members.

The government has set up a center “Center of Distinguished Iqama” that will be concerned with the affairs of this type of residency.

The headquarters of the Premium Residency (Special Privileged Iqamas) will be under the Ministry of Interior. However, organizationally, the Center will be under the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), with the possibility of setting up branches or offices for the Center, if needed.

The proposed new law stipulates two types of Iqamas — a permanent residence permit and a temporary residence permit with specific fees. They will grant the holder a number of privileges including practicing business, according to specific conditions.

Many expatriates as well as experts believe this new law is the beginning of a series of reforms that will take shape in next few years. They feel that Saudi Arabia is fast moving toward abolishing the sponsorship (kafalah) system.

Business experts say that Premium Residency (Special Privileged Iqamas) system will combat commercial cover-up (tasattur) in the Kingdom. Saudi businessmen believe that the new law will attract investment from expatriates and at the same time will generate more revenue. — SG