When I heard the news that the 150 member Shoura Saudi parliament had approved draft proposals and laws for a Saudi Green card for expats, I felt shocked but at the same time excited by the possibility. So, I did some research to find out exactly what the Green Card is about and how someone might be eligible.
So, What is the Saudi Premium Residency Or Saudi Green Card?
The ‘Premium Residency Scheme’ allows skilled foreign residents and financiers to invest, run a business, self sponsor and travel freely in and out of Saudi. It also provides a host of special economic and personal privileges such as the right to obtain residency visas for family members, banking, and transport.
Sadly, given the requirements, Premium Residency SP1 & SP2 will not be available to each one of the 10.4 million foreign nationals currently residing here in the kingdom.
There are specific conditions that must be met. These will center mainly on the applicant’s ability to invest financially in the country as well as the capacity to create employment for Saudi nationals, thereby adding more value to the economy.
The Green Card or Premium Residency is offered to residents for a fee. You can get the details and conditions by clicking the SAPRC Platform provided by an independent unit associated with the Saudi Council for Economic Affairs and Development.
There are also four ways that you can obtain Saudi citizenship which I discuss in the following helpful article: The Complete Insiders Guide to Gaining Saudi Citizenship
There will be two types:
- Permanent Residence called Premium Residency (SP1) costs (800,000 SR/ $213,000) and is a one off payment.
- Temporary Residence called the Premium Residency (SP2) costs (100,000 SR/$26,000) per year and is a yearly payment.
Who Issues The Premium Residency SP1 & SP2?
The Saudi government has set up a special center to handle applications, to issue and manage the Premium Residency more details of which can be found at the following SPRC Portal.
Why Have A Premium Residency for Foreign Nationals In Saudi Arabia?
Truthfully, Saudi Arabia has no interest in granting citizenship to its foreign nationals. However, they do see the Premium Residency Scheme as a way to decrease the flow of 300 billion Saudi Riyals out of the country in the form of international remittances and a way to lure foreign investors to participate more fully in the non-oil economy, a plan outlined in the Vision 2030. This is to turn the kingdom into ‘a leading industrial powerhouse and a global logistics hub’.
Today, Saudi Arabia is giving citizenship to a select number of people. The following article tells you who can and how to apply: The Complete Insiders Guide to Gaining Saudi Citizenship
The Saudi government hopes to reduce international remittances by 30% in the future by putting an end to the commercial cover-ups used by foreign nationals and Saudis business owners known as ‘Tasattur’.
Tasattur refers to the (illegal) investment in companies by foreign nationals who cannot be granted trading licenses but who run their businesses using licenses issued (legally) to and in the name of Saudi nationals for a share of the profits.
About 60% of all foreign money transfers originate in ‘Tasattur’ business activities. There about 200,000 small to medium scale companies earning 50,000 SR to 1,000,000 SR per month involved in this practice.
The introduction of the Premium Residency would allow foreign nationals to own businesses and participate in the legal economy by paying taxes and greatly help the government to take back more control of supply shops and supermarkets.
It would also help the government to know the remittances and financial details of foreign residents since they would be operating within the legal confines.
As a Premium Residency Holder, expat business owners will feel no longer need to resort to ‘Tasattur’ and conditions will become more favorable for others to invest and live more openly in the kingdom.
The Saudi Economist Khaled Al-Dhubay’i estimated that the new Premium Residency would help to generate more than 1000 billion SR in foreign investments.
For Premium Residency Status- Here is What You Need
General Conditions For SP1 & SP2 Eligibility
- A Valid passport
- Be 21 years of age or more
- Have a valid Saudi Iqama (Residency Permit) or Resident Abroad
- A Proven Clean Criminal Record
- Free of Contagious Diseases (Medical Report)
- Sufficient (ample) Finances
- Pay Annual Fees- SP1 only
The ‘Premium Residency status will be canceled if the following occurs.
- Conviction of Crime involving 60 days prison or 100,000 SR fine.
- Court Ordered Deportation
- Incorrect Information in Premium Residency Application Form
- Request By the Iqama Holder
What Are The Benefits That Saudi Premium Residency Holders Enjoy?
- Residence in KSA with the immediate family dependents (a wife of any age) and children up to 21 years of age.
- (Up to 25 if a male student, and no age limit if a daughter is unmarried or unemployed.)
- Easily obtainable Family Visit visas for fathers/mothers, grandfathers/grandmothers, children, grandchildren, their children, brothers, sisters, and their children.
- Can recruit foreign domestic workers
- Can own residential, commercial, or industrial properties (except Mecca and Madinah)
- Can lease residential, commercial, or industrial properties in Mecca and Madinah
- Can own means of private transportation
- Is free to work at private companies, including family members (Except Saudized jobs)
- Can arrive and leave in the kingdom as you please!
- Can use emigration lanes in ports that are meant for Saudi and GCC nationals
- Can open and operate a business
What Are The Fees For The Saudi Premium Residency?
SP1- 800,000 SR ($213,000) one time payment
SP2-100,000 SR ($26,000) per year (more than one-year residency attracts an accumulative 2% discount)
Which Documents And Proofs Do Applicants For SP1 & SP2 Need To Submit?
- The Current or Former Saudi Iqama/Residency Number
- Home Address And Proof of Residency-Utility Bills
- Wife and Dependents Details (if applicable)
- Employment Certificate Detailing Salary (Non-KSA residents)
- Employment Certificate with Chamber of Commerce Stamp (KSA Residents)
- Home Ownership Title Deeds (Scanned Copy)
- Two Years Worth Of Bank Statements
- Loan Agreement/Bank Guarantees (Scanned Copy if Applicable)
- Audited Financial Statements Proving Ownership Of Shares, Units or Certificates
- All Documents Should be In Arabic OR Translated (With translators Stamps)
- Passport Sized Photographs Of Applicant And His/Her Dependents
- 1st Page Of Applicant Passport And Family (Dependents) (Scanned Copy)
- Saudi Visa In Passport Showing Duration of Residency In Saudi Arabia (Up To Last 15 years Worth- Scanned Copy)
What Are The Main Differences Between An Iqama Holder And SP1 & SP 2 Visa Holder
|Saudi Premium Residency||Regular Iqama Residency|
|Can Issue Exit Reentry Visa||Needs Sponsor Permission|
To Issue Exit-Entry Visa
|Can Get Annual or Permanent Residency||Iqama Must Be Renewed |
Yearly Or Every Two Years
|Can Own residential/Commercial Property||Needs Permission From MOI|
|Unlimited Vehicle Ownership||Limited To Two Vehicles|
|Has Usufruct (lease) on Property |
in Mecca Or Madinah
|No Rights To Own Property|
In Mecca Or Madinah
|Can Work In Private Sector|
Can Change Jobs Without Permission
Including Family Members
(Except Saudized Professions)
|Needs Approval To Change Jobs|
(From 2021, No More Approval Needed)
Can Saudi Premium Residency Visa Holders Run Businesses or Work In Private Organizations?
Yes! They can own a private business according to the regulations set out in the Saudi Foreign Investment Law. Yes, they can work in private companies and change their jobs.
Is The Saudi Premium Residency Visa Holder Sponsored By Anyone?
No! He/she is self-sponsored. His/her occupation does not appear on the Iqama/ID document.
Is The Saudi Premium Residency Visa The Same Thing As An Investor Visa?
No! The Investor Visa allows individuals or company employees to invest money into existing Saudi companies, who in turn sponsor them. They are NOT permitted to work. The Saudi Premium Residency visa holders are free agents, have no sponsors, and are permitted to work.
Should A Saudi Premium Residency Visa Holder Wish To Invest, Would He or She Pay The SR62,000 fee for The Investment Licence For The Commercial Registry?
Yes, they must conduct business in the kingdom according to the Foreign Investment Laws.
Do Family Members Of The SP1/SP2 Holder Have To Pay the Fee For The Saudi Premium Residency?
No! Also, the number of dependents SP1 or SP2 visa holders can sponsor is unlimited.
Do Saudi Premium Residency Visa Holders Have To Pay Expat Levies?
No, neither do their family members who are dependents.
Are Saudi Premium Residency Visa Holders Taxed In Any Way?
No! There are no specific income taxes imposed on SP1 or SP2 visa holders except those that apply to the general populace, such as VAT, etc. SP1 or SP2 fees are not taxable!
Can SP1 or SP2 Holders Automatically Marry A Saudi National? Will It Be Easier For Me To Get The Premium Residency Visa?
No! There are other terms and conditions that apply for SP1 & SP2. To learn how a non-Saudi man can marry a Saudi woman, read the helpful article How Can A Non-Saudi Man Marry A Saudi Woman?
What Does Financial Solvency Mean In The Application For Saudi Premium Residency?
Do The Saudi Premium Residency Holders Enjoy The Same Rights As Saudi Nationals?
No, they are quite different.
Can SP1 or SP2 Visa Holders Invest In The Kingdom’s Capital Markets?
Yes, according to the conditions set out for non-Saudis in the Capital Market Authority terms and conditions.
Can The Children Of Saudi Premium Residency Holders Join Public (Saudi) Universities And Colleges Free Of Charge?
Can A Wife/Wives Or Children Inherit The Saudi Premium Residency In The Case Of The Death, Termination Or Cancellation By SP1 & SP2 Visa Holders?
Yes, in the event of the death or demise of the SP1 or SP2 visa holder, the rights and benefits do transfer to immediate family members for one time only!
In The Event Of The Death Of An SP1 Or SP2 Visa Holder, Can A Spouse Assume Control Of Business Interests?
Yes, in accordance with the Foreign Investment Law.
In The Event Of The Death Of An SP1 Or SP2 Visa Holder, Can A Spouse Assume Control Of Residential Property?
Yes, in accordance with the Foreign Investment Law. However, industrial or commercial property will be dealt with according to the Foreign Investment Law.
Can The Saudi Premium Residency Be Terminated Or Cancelled? What Happens Then?
Yes! In the event that the SP1 or SP2 visa holder:
- is convicted and punished by imprisonment of more than 6 months.
- is deported by order of a judge or judiciary.
- provides false information in his/her initial application.
- does not follow regulations and/or breaks the Saudi law.
- gives up his /her SP visa.
- dies or becomes incapacitated.
- is terminated on the grounds of public interest.
Is A Foreign Based Business Owner Required To Prove That He/She Has a Commercial Registration Abroad?
SP1 & SP2 Are Not Required To Have A Commercial Entity Abroad. They can set up and conduct their business inside the kingdom.
Advantages Of Being A Premium Resident in KSA
For Resident Expats
You will be able to:
- Own and Run a Business
- Have and Own means of Transport
- Invest Money in Companies and Mecca and Medina Real Estate
- Get and Change Jobs Freely
- Obtain Residency/Visit Visas for Family Members
- Leave, Enter and Reside in Saudi without a Sponsor’s Permission
- Be Exempt from Expat Levies
- Get Processed at Airports as Saudi Nationals are
- Hire Domestic workers
- Own Property & additional Vehicles
- Use all Bank Facilities Freely
- Take Treatment in Hospitals and Clinics
If an expat applicant is vetted and accepted for the Premium Residency, it will be issued either as ‘leave to remain’ in the kingdom for an unlimited period or renewed on a yearly basis.
For the Saudi Government
Firstly, the new Premium Residency is expected to reduce the number of expat (foreign) remittances by 400 billion SR per year.
This means that business earnings that for decades have been leaving the country and draining the economy will now remain in the kingdom and be used for investment and as a means to boost it significantly.
Second, in the freer business climate, foreign entrepreneurs will feel confident about coming to Saudi Arabia to invest their money. This gives them more control over how funds are used and managed.
Third, the favorable conditions will attract business-minded people with financial skills and experience. It is hoped that they will bring with them new ideas and innovative approaches in creating an atmosphere of economic diversification in the non-oil industries.
Disadvantages Of The Premium Residency Scheme
The downside of the Premium Residency Scheme is that it is limited to only a handful of individuals with money to invest and there are no plans to grant Saudi citizenship to these participants.
In reality, thousands of expat workers not belonging to this special category are more likely to find that sooner or later they will be replaced at work by a Saudi national due to Saudiization.
Also, the double penalty of both the business expat taxes and the family levy have forced company bosses to fire foreign workers and caused many women and children family members to return to their countries of origin.
It is ironic that on the one hand, thousands of expat workers are being forced to leave the kingdom and on the other, greater efforts are being made to retain and attract those individuals with unique skills and with lots of money to invest.
Is This The End Of The Saudi Kafala (Sponsorship) System?
Perhaps, it is the beginning of the end.
Today, expat workers can keep their passports and no longer need to surrender them to their sponsors. Also, expat employees can change jobs without the sponsor’s permission. In addition, they can process exit-reentry visas for their family members without a sponsor.
Click to read Insidesaudi article concerning the announcement to abolish the sponsorship or Kafala system in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Premium Residency will allow a few lucky individuals to own and run and business, buy a house, come and go to Saudi Arabia as they please, and enjoy other normal advantages so far reserved for Saudi nationals.
The Saudi Economist Khaled Al-Mubayyidh has said of the scheme that due to the Vision 2030, many more options to engage in investment, business and social affairs in the Kingdom could potentially be available to expats in the future.
More investment is very likely since as a result of changes in policy, 3 billion SR of foreign investments were already committed to Saudi Arabia in 2018.
It is a very good start, and we anticipate that the same privileges will be granted to dedicated, but normal expat workers who have spent decades of their lives in the kingdom running other peoples’ businesses, boosting the economy, and building up the nation.
If a majority of expat employees were allowed to enjoy more of the rights as granted in the Premium Residency, they too would convert their spending away from their home countries and use it to invest more of their salaries in the kingdom, buy houses, spend money in the market, use more services, send their kids to fee-paying universities and buy into pension funds, etc.
Though individually the amounts spent would be much smaller than say a big business investor, the volume of spending combined would be big enough to dramatically decrease international remittances thus meeting governmental targets.
Click here to link through to and read my other article about Expat Salaries and the Effects of the Expat Levies.
How do you apply for a Premium Residency visa?
Until today, the Saudi Premium Residency is available at the following link. You fill in a form, submit documents and pay a fee.
Who Can Apply For The Saudi Premium Residency?
All nationalities are welcome to apply, both inside and outside the kingdom.
How long does it take to process and be granted the Saudi Premium Residency visa?
Processing the application will take months. However, there is no specific time period. It depends on the documents supplied and the circumstances of the applicant. The unit team has to liaise with other government agencies. Hence, the delay.
What is the minimum age I can apply for?
It is aged 21 and over-male or female.
Can I Sponsor My Mother Or Father As A SP1 or SP2 Visa Holder? No, but you can automatically apply for a Family Visa for them. However, each applicant is treated on a case-by-case basis according to their unique familial circumstances.
Can I Sponsor My Children Who Are Over The Age Of 21 as A Saudi Premium Residency Visa Holder?
Yes! If Your daughter is married or unemployed. Yes, if your son is a registered student aged 25 or less.
Is The Saudi premium Residency only Available For Investors?
No! Anyone can apply regardless of their occupation. However, financial solvency should be proven.
Do children of the applicant also benefit from having the Saudi Premium Residency visa?
Yes! Children under 21 automatically are included in the Premium Residency Visa. It only includes those older than 21 who are male students (sons) up to the age of 25 AND unmarried and unemployed daughters. Children (Males) over the age of 25 CANNOT be sponsored by SP1 or SP2 visa holders.
I Work In KSA With A Monthly Salary Of SR 10,000. Am I Eligible For SP1 Or SP2?
The criteria for assessing financial solvency varies from person to person according to his/her status and circumstances. SP1 & SP2 Are For Any Applicant Who Satisfies The Conditions.
How much does the Saudi Premium Residency cost?
The (permanent) Premium Residency Status (SP1) will cost (800,000 SR/ $213,000) which is a one-off payment and the (annual) Premium Residency (SP2) is renewable each year will cost (100,000 SR/$26,000) paid each year.
Application details are available at the government agency site www.saprc.gov.sa
What does it mean to show financial solvency?
There is NO specific figure or amount in the bank. The criteria for financial solvency vary from person to person and are proven by submitting the required documents showing incomes, investments, and other resources and assets.
Do SP1 & SP2 Visa Applicants Need To Have a Saudi Bank Account?
Not necessarily, but they should produce evidence of financial solvency using bank statements, ownership documents, assets, and any other proof.
If I Get The Saudi Premium Residency, Will It Be Easier To Get Saudi Nationality At A Later Date?
The Saudi Premium Residency cannot be used as a stepping stone to obtaining Saudi citizenship in the future. The procedure for becoming Saudi has its own terms and conditions and is generally only granted to relatives of Saudi nationals or special occupational categories that are in demand.
See insidesaudi.com – The Complete (Insider’s) Guide To Obtaining Saudi Citizenship.
Are Premium Residency Visa holders obliged to remain in Saudi Arabia for a certain period of time during a year?
No! There are no mandatory requirements for periods of time to be spent in the kingdom. The Saudi Premium residency is intended for investors who do not necessarily wish to live in the kingdom.
I was born in KSA. Does this Fact qualify me for obtaining Saudi Premium Residency?
No, It makes no difference, since specific terms and conditions apply for the SP1 and SP2.
Can SP1 & SP2 Visa Holders Travel Freely Between GCC Countries Like GCC Nationals?
No! They must follow the same rules set out for non-Saudis according to the immigration laws.
Do SP1 & SP2 Visa Holders Have To Leave The Kingdom After Leaving An Old Job And Upon Taking UP The Visa?
No, as long as the applicant successfully completes his/her clearance with his old job.
Does Having The Saudi premium Residency Make Eligible Me To Go For Hajj Or Umrah?
No! There are no special privileges for SP1 & SP2 visa holders in this regard. They are treated the same as any non-Saudi.
Can I Change My Visa Status From SP2 To SP1 After A Year Or Two?
Yes, when you have to renew the SP2 visa, contact the Saudi Premium Residency team to arrange an upgrade.
Can A SP1 & SP2 Visa Holder Sponsor A New Wife/Wives?
Can A SP1 Or SP2 Holder Do An Exit-Rentry Visa Without Taking Permission Form A Sponsor?
Yes! They can personally issue an Exit/Reentry or Multiple-Entry Visa via the government electronic platform at any time.
If The SP1 Or SP2 Gets Terminated Or Cancelled What Are My Rights Regarding Property, Investments, Assets, and Possessions, etc.
Holders of cancelled SP1 or SP2 Visa have the right to remain between 60 and 130 days before leaving the kingdom. A special committee will meet to consider the closure or cancellation. The decision of how to dispose of assets will be undertaken on a case-by-case basis.
How Do I Contact Saudi Premium Residency Personnel?
From within KSA, call them at 920000087 during Government Work Hours 7 am to 3 pm. However, if you are outside the kingdom, message the Saudi Premium Residency team with your contact number on Twitter, and they will call you.
How Do I Write To The Saudi Premium Residency Office?
Write to the staff at the Saudi Premium Residency Office via Twitter. They will answer.
Alternatively, you may like to email the Saudi Premium Residency team at: email@example.com
How Do I get Saudi Citizenship?
There are four ways to do get Saudi citizenship. 1. Petition and face to face the king himself 2. Apply at the Civil Affairs Office 3. Send a letter to the King’s office (Diwan) 4. Possess an outstanding occupation For more details regarding how exactly to apply for Saudi citizenship click through to the following helpful article: The Complete Insiders Guide to Gaining Saudi Citizenship