Rights and benefits of the Saudi ‘Green Card’

Time: May 20, 2019  

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The Kingdom is continuing its development and reform plans within Vision 2030 to develop its economy and enhance the attractiveness of its investment environment. (AFP)
  • New visa move will allow residents and expatriates to play a more active role in Saudi economy
  • Media reports suggest the “Privileged Iqama” could cost as much as SR800,000 for a long-term version or SR100,000 for the one-year version

JEDDAH: The Um Al-Qura newspaper, the official gazette of the Saudi government, has published new information concerning the laws and regulations of the Privileged Iqama, widely known as the Saudi “Green Card.” It also carried the conditions under which the Iqama can be canceled.
Following the announcement of the Saudi Cabinet’s approval of the Privileged Iqama residency permit, as previously reported by Arab News, the new information offers a further look at the Privileged Resident Permit (iqama) scheme.
The iqama was first proposed in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and was approved by the Cabinet last week. It will for the first time allow foreign nationals to work and live in Saudi Arabia without a sponsor.
The scheme will enable expatriates to permanently reside, own property and invest in the Kingdom. An authorized draft of the new Privileged Iqama system offers a number of benefits to highly skilled expatriates and owners of capital funds that will not require a Saudi sponsor.
A special committee has been given 90 days to determine regulations governing the mechanisms of the scheme, such as fees for applicants, which have not been yet determined by the authorities.
Fahad bin Juma, vice chairman of the Shoura Council Financial Committee said that eligibility for the Saudi Green Card will be determined by a number of bodies headed by the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, as reported by Al-Watan newspaper.
He also added that in order to be eligible, applicants must possess scientific or professional skills that are not abundantly available in the Kingdom, or they should be company owners who can invest in the country.
The holder of the Privileged Iqama will be deemed resident for the purpose of applying other statutory provisions, especially tax provisions, regardless of how much time he spends outside the Kingdom in the course of the year.
The applicant must be over 21 years of age, must have a valid passport, must not have a criminal record, and must provide a health report dated within 6 months of the application presenting proof that the applicant is free of infectious diseases. In the case of applications from within the Kingdom, the applicant must obtain a legal resident permit before applying.
The Privilege Iqama rights include possession of private means of transport and any other movable properties that an expat is allowed to acquire as per the Saudi law, employment in private sector establishments and transfer between them (this includes the beneficiary’s family members) except for occupations and jobs from which non-Saudi nationals are banned. The rights also include freedom to leave the Kingdom and return to it independently, use of the queues designated for Saudi nationals when entering and exiting the Kingdom through its ports, and doing business under the foreign investment system.
Under the system, two categories are provided to applicants, an extended iqama and temporary iqama subject to renewal.
Upon approval of the application, according to Article 5, the applicant must pay the fees specified by the designated authorities; the holder will be deemed resident for the purpose of applying other statutory requirements, especially the tax provisions, regardless of how much time he spends outside the Kingdom in the course of the year.
The Privileged Iqama does not entitle the holder to Saudi citizenship.
The holder of the Privileged Iqama, will enjoy several rights, including residence in Saudi Arabia with his family, the right to issue visitor’s visas for relatives as defined by the MOI regulations, the recruitment of domestic workers, the possession of property for residential, commercial and industrial purposes with the exclusion of Makkah, Madinah and border areas as per the regulations. The holder will also be able to utilize property in Makkah and Madinah for a period not exceeding 99 years.
The Ministries of Justice and Commerce and Investment shall establish the necessary mechanisms to ensure the beneficiary’s access to an instrument of utilization issued by the Notary Public. This right will be enforceable by transfer to others according to the rules set by the committee.
Saudi Arabia’s minister of Economy and Planning, Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, said that the Privilege Iqama law approved by the Saudi Cabinet confirms that the Kingdom is continuing its development and reform plans in accordance with Vision 2030 to develop its economy and enhance the attractiveness of its investment environment.
The Privilege Iqama aims to make residents and expatriates an active part of the Saudi economy, promote consumption growth by increasing quality purchasing power and economic activity in various sectors, establish more small and medium enterprises, and generate jobs for Saudi citizens.
The Privileged Iqama can be canceled if the holder did not comply with the obligations stipulated in Article 7 of the law, waivered his residency, and/or passed away or was no longer eligible.
Several matters could lead to the cancelation of the Iqama, such as providing false information in the application, a conviction for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a period exceeding 60 days and/or a fine exceeding SR100,000, or a judicial decision to deport the holder from the Kingdom.
The cancelation or termination of the Privilege Iqama does not entail the transfer of the rights and benefits, obtained in accordance with Article 2 of the law, to the holder’s family. However, if a family member met the conditions of this law and its regulations, he may apply for the Privileged Iqama.
In the event of the cancelation or termination of the holder’s Iqama or any of his family members, the Privilege Iqama Center will, in coordination with the designated authorities, consider and remedy any consequences that may result therefrom in accordance with the law and its regulations.

This article was first published in Arab News

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What does the Saudi ‘green card’ mean for entrepreneurs?

Time: May 16, 2019  

Call it the “Privileged Iqama” system or “Saudi green card,” the end result is still the same. This new residency scheme that has just been approved by the Saudi Cabinet will allow skilled foreigners, capital investors and entrepreneurs to live and work in Saudi Arabia without the need for a sponsor.

Having lived in the US, the UK and other countries in my youth and adulthood, I saw the impact of residency schemes that encourage people to migrate for opportunities, and experienced first-hand the growth that these schemes brought to these countries. I am very optimistic that this Saudi scheme will also bring more non-oil dependent economic growth and prosperity to our country, that will help us achieve our 2030 vision.

So what will this scheme mean for foreign entrepreneurs wanting to enter the Saudi market? Well, first and foremost, it will allow them to freely declare their actual status as “entrepreneurs,” and work full time on their startups without taking a full-time day job in order to have legal status in Saudi. That alone is a big burden lifted. Focusing on their startups is what will take entrepreneurs to the next level, and expand their businesses. Giving them the freedom to do what they need to expand their businesses and recruit who they see fit is essential.

Speaking to my American co-founder, Tim Abbott, at our company Upskillable about what this may mean to him as a part-time entrepreneur in Saudi, was revealing. Tim told me: “I think this scheme will bring a wave of innovation to the Kingdom, and encourage many bright minds to set up shop here. Additionally, some expats believe it will eliminate the exploitation they feel has happened in the past when trying to start businesses with local partners with no legal framework. Furthermore, it will allow entrepreneurs to build some of their innovative ideas in the Kingdom, instead of going to other jurisdictions when they don’t really want to do business in those places. The excitement around this new development is contagious and people are simply waiting for the details to be ironed out.”

This is going to be a big economic stimulus for Saudi Arabia.

• Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj is a best-selling Saudi author, an international public speaker and an entrepreneurship mentor.

This article was first published in Arab News

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No sponsor? No problem: Saudi Shoura Council approves new ‘green card’ residency

Time: May 08, 2019  

Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council on Wednesday approved a new “Privileged Iqama” system for expatriate residents.
  • The new Privileged Iqama system will offer a raft of benefits to highly skilled expatriates and owners of capital funds

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council on Wednesday approved plans to attract entrepreneurs and investors from overseas with a “green card”-style residency scheme.

The authorized draft of the new Privileged Iqama system will offer a raft of benefits to highly skilled expatriates and owners of capital funds. Unlike the existing iqama system, such residents would not require a Saudi sponsor or employer.

The benefits on offer include the ability to recruit of workers; ownership of property and transport; employment in the private sector, commerce and industry; freedom of movement and exit from the Kingdom and return; and the use of designated queues at airports.

Under the system, which requires a guarantee of specific fees, there are two categories: An extended iqama and a temporary one.

Eligible expatriates must have a valid passport with a credit report, a health report and no criminal record.

Last month, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced the launch of its Gold Card extended residence program.

The ministry called on consultants and agencies to analyze the possibility of providing incentives to beneficiaries.

The Gold Card program is part of the Quality of Life Program 2020, which was launched in 2018 by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs.

The aim of the Gold Card program is to promote expatriates’ engagement with Saudi culture, and to increase acceptance of other cultures among Saudis.

This article was first published in Arab News

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‘Four new investors per day’: Record foreign investment in Q1 of 2019 for Saudi Arabia

Time: May 01, 2019  

In a special report released on Wednesday, SAGIA said that 267 new foreign investors were issued licenses in Q1 of this year in Saudi Arabia. (SAGIA)
  • The figures mark a 70 percent increase when compared to Q1 2018
  • The leading growth sectors include education and healthcare

RIYADH: Four new investors have set up companies in Saudi Arabia per day in the first quarter of 2019, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has revealed.
In a special report released on Wednesday, the authority also said that 267 new foreign investors were issued licenses in Q1 of this year, permitting them to operate in the country in a bid to “promote a competitive business environment in the Kingdom.”
The figures mark a 70 percent increase when compared to Q1 2018.
Commenting on the reforms Ibrahim Al-Omar, Governor of SAGIA, said: “Guided by Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, our country is undergoing a remarkable economic transformation. The continued prosperity of the Kingdom depends on sparking innovation, attracting foreign investors and empowering the private sector. The positive growth numbers that we have seen in the first quarter of 2019 represents a significant milestone on the road to 2030.”
The leading growth sectors include education and healthcare, following the recent lifting of foreign ownership restrictions in these industries. During Q1 2019, nine new education-related companies were established, compared to just one in Q1 2018.
A joint venture with UAE-based NMC Healthcare was established to acquire and develop a pan-Saudi network of health care facilities with a capacity of up to 3,000 beds and total investments up to SAR6 billion ($1.6 billion) over the next five years.
Other sectors that saw strong growth in Q1 of this year include the construction industry, which saw 39 new foreign investors receive business licenses, compared to only 22 in Q1 2018.
There was also strong growth from long-standing and strategically important Saudi partners such as the US and the UK.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudis issue 70% more foreign business licences from year ago

Time: April 29, 2019   

Saudis issue 70% more foreign business licences from year ago
Attendees at the recent Invest Saudi conference in Riyadh.
By Bloomberg

The number of new licences approved for foreign businesses in Saudi Arabia rose by 70 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority.

Applications from British and Chinese companies drove the increase, rising by 86 percent and 71 percent, respectively, Ibrahim Al Omar, governor of Sagia, as the kingdom’s investment-promotion body is known, said in an interview.

The fastest-growing industries were education – which the kingdom only opened to foreign investors in November – and information and communications technology, Al Omar said.

The year-on-year growth in foreign licences follows Saudi efforts to remove restrictions on international investments. Yet, fresh foreign direct investment in the country has been modest.

While FDI more than doubled last year to about $3 billion, it remains well below the average level of the past decade, as uncertainty over the government’s economic plans, its human-rights record and the declared crackdown on corruption in 2017 have weighed on investor sentiment.

FDI figures for the first quarter aren’t yet available, though Sagia is “continuing to see strong momentum from foreign investors,” Al Omar said. “We’ve seen a good increase in the number of companies looking to operate in Saudi Arabia, and in the number of industries that they are looking to invest in.”

Saudi Arabia seeks foreign investment to help diversify the economy away from oil. Sagia is working with the World Bank to improve its ranking on the ease-of-doing-business index, where it currently ranks 92nd among 190 countries.

“We are reviewing all licensing requirements, and you will see a 50 percent drop overall from government departments in terms of the time, cost and number of requirements to invest in Saudi Arabia,” Al Omar said.

This article was first published in Arabian Business

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Franchising can help achieve Saudi ‘Vision 2030’ goals Previous

Time: April 28, 2019  

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The three-day expo was launched on Thursday under the patronage of Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, deputy governor of the Eastern Province. (SPA)
  • Franchising generally involves companies providing the services or goods of another company for a fee

ALKHOBAR: Franchising presents an opportunity to encourage foreign investment in Saudi Arabia and promote local brands abroad, according to delegates at the World Franchise Expo.
The three-day expo was launched on Thursday under the patronage of Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, deputy governor of the Eastern Province, at the Dhahran International Exhibitions Center.
Franchising generally involves companies providing the services or goods of another company for a fee. Major franchise operations include McDonalds and Coca Cola.
Participants at the expo included representatives of the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monshaat), the Eastern Province Secretariat, the Asharqia and Jazan chambers of commerce, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, the Social Development Bank, the Entrepreneurship Institute, and the Ministry of Commerce and Investment.
Monshaat’s services department director, Zeinab Al-Amin, commended the government’s interest in the small and medium enterprises sector as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan. SPA Alkhobar
“The franchising system is an opportunity to launch entrepreneurship projects,” she said. “It provides a wide range of choices to encourage small and medium projects, which help support the national economy and sustainable development.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia said to mull relaxation of foreign ownership limits

Time: April 27, 2019   

Saudi Arabia said to mull relaxation of foreign ownership limits
The Saudi Stock Exchange has seen a surge in foreign fund flows since the start of the year due to the inclusion in the emerging markets indexes. (FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
By Staff writer

Saudi Arabia is reportedly considering relaxing a 49 percent limit for foreign strategic investors in shares of listed companies.

Mohammed El-Kuwaiz, chairman of the Capital Market Authority told Reuters that the move is being considered due to increased demand.

Foreigners currently own 5.5 percent of Saudi equities but that could nearly double by the end of 2020, Mohammed El Kuwaiz said in an interview with Reuters in Riyadh.

“We found most strategic investors are maybe looking to build more sizeable stakes,” Kuwaiz was quoted as saying.

The kingdom, which has the Middle East’s largest exchange, has introduced a raft of reforms as it seeks to position its bourse as an international capital markets hub.

It has seen a surge in foreign fund flows since the start of the year due to the inclusion in the emerging markets indexes.

This article was first published in Arabian Business

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Saudi investment climate ranks highly globally in US News report

 Time: April 18, 2019  

Saudi Arabia is the second best country to invest in according to a US News report. (AFP)
  • According to the report Saudi Arabia has a strong performing economy
  • Kingdom was ranked second only behind Uruguay

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is the second best country to invest in according to a US News report, which surveyed 7,000 business decision makers.

The report was based on a compilation of eight equally weighted country attributes: Corruption, dynamic markets, economically stable, entrepreneurial, favorable tax environment, innovative, skilled labor force and technological expertise.

US News also looked at what factors make a country unique – its people, environment, relationships, framework and teachings – which are included in a World Bank report that also highlights four distinct factors that motivate an individual or corporation to invest in that country: Natural resources, markets, efficiency and strategic assets like technologies or brands.

According to the US News report, “Saudi Arabia has a strong performing economy, making it an attractive and promising recipient of foreign direct investment,” and quoted World Bank estimates that the Kingdom’s economy was set to continue to grow.

Saudi Arabia was ranked second only behind Uruguay, while it beat out countries like India, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Chile in the top 10 listing.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid Al-Falih talks Middle East industrialization at WEF MENA event

Time: April 07, 2019  

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid Al-Falih spoke at the World Economic Forum for Middle East and North Africa about the Kingdom’s new vision for industrialization in the Middle East region. (Screenshot)

DEAD SEA, Jordan: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid Al-Falih spoke at the World Economic Forum for Middle East and North Africa about the Kingdom’s new vision for industrialization in the Middle East region.

The discussion with WEF founder Klaus Schwab opened with the Swiss thanking Al-Falih for the large Saudi delegation at the forum, and Al-Falih voiced his appreciation for Schwab’s support for the Middle East region at the various WEF events.

Al-Falih thaned Schwab for WEF’s ongoing support for the Middle East region at various, previous events and he echoed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s assertion that the region “can become the new Europe.”

The energy minister used the cases of Saudi Aramco and SABIC as examples of how Saudi Arabia can lead the way in advancing industrialization in the region and he mentioned how important tapping into the youth talent pool for development.

On the role of the private sector in the success of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plans and economic diversification, Al-Falih said the Kingdom’s government was making sure the private sector was encouraged to operate and invest in the Kingdom, citing examples of airports and ports, and facilities privatization in Saudi Arabia.

When asked by Schwab about the transition from fossil fuels to newer, renewable energy sources and its impact on Saudi Arabia’s economy, Al-Falih said the process would take many decades, and that with population growth adding 2 billion people to the global population and the subsequent expansion of the ‘middle class,’ demand for all sources of energy — including oil and gas — will still exist well into the middle of the century.

Al-Falih highlighted Saudi Arabia’s “heavy investment” in renewable energies, and how he advises the Saudi government as well as his clients that the use of oil and gas has to be “more effective”, adding that both would peak by the middle of the century and saying “we will still need all solutions.”

The energy minister was also positive about the future for the Kingdom in terms of youth employment and women empowerment in the workplace — stating the need for the private sector to be involved in the education of youth, of both genders, given they it benefits them when hiring graduates. It is something the education ministry in Saudi Arabia is concentrating on by revamping the curriculum to help graduates get into the private sector, Al-Falih said.

And Al-Falih said that, while Saudi Arabia’s plan for women empowerment in the work force will come about differently to the way it works in other parts of the world, he was certain women in the Kingdom and the Middle East region as a whole will thrive.

This article was first published in Arab News

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New business funding portal to help Saudi entrepreneurs

Time: April 05, 2019  

The event will run until April 6 at the Dhahran International Exhibition Center. (SPA)
  • Initiative will allow startups to tap into funding channels by bidding for online offers from financial providers

DAMMAM: An initiative aimed at helping entrepreneurs to access business funding has been launched by Saudi finance chiefs.

The Kingdom’s Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at) has signed joint agreements with a number of financial providers to allow business owners to apply for monetary backing through a newly established website.

The announcement came as 720 young entrepreneurs took part in the Biban Eastern Forum for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), being staged by Monsha’at at the Dhahran International Exhibition Center.

The event, organized in collaboration with the National Entrepreneurship Institute (Riyadah), runs until April 6 with the aim of supporting and developing the sector. Delegates were able to participate in more than 60 specialized training courses, lectures, workshops and interactive sessions.

And the new portal initiative will allow entrepreneurs, startups and innovators to tap into funding channels by bidding for online offers from financial providers.

It is the latest in a line of schemes launched by Monsha’at to help SMEs  in the Kingdom. The authority had previously set up a SR1.6 billion ($416 million) initiative to provide credits to businesses through the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), in addition to establishing a SR2.8 billion ($728 million) fund to invest in SMEs.

Meanwhile, the forum gathering offered 36 training courses in subject areas including supply chains, human resources management, basic app programming, marketing, accounting, strategic planning, commercial franchises, and branding.

Thirty other specialized courses were dedicated to e-commerce, and included e-stores, business models and e-ideas.

Several other workshops were held offering guidance and information in areas such as industrial empowerment, risk management, micro-enterprise management, financial technology, bank financing, exports, smart leadership apps, entrepreneurship, data analysis, and human resources management of new projects.

This article was first published in Arab News

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