The initiative by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia to attract investors and professionals to help drive his ambitious Saudi Vision 2030, received a boost on Tuesday with the first wave of 73 foreigners from 19 countries being granted premium residency.
The premium residency program offers foreigners permanent residency for Saudi riyal (SAR) 800,000, or a one-year renewable residency for SAR100,000. Premium residency holders will be entitled to buy property and start a business without the need for a Saudi ‘kafeel’ or sponsor. In addition, those with premium residency will be able to sponsor visas for their family members, enter and exit the country, as well as switch jobs without any hassle.
Announcing the launch of the plan, the government’s Premium Residency Center said that over a thousand applications had been received for the program from around the world. A statement from the Center noted that the initial batch of selected applicants included investors, financiers, doctors and engineers. Though the statement did not clarify how many of the initial applicants opted for permanent residency, the treasury is now reportedly richer by anything from SAR7 million all the way up to over SAR58 million.
At the time when the premium residency plan was first mooted in 2016, the Crown Prince had estimated the program would generate about $10 billion in revenues by 2020.
The permanent residency plan reveals the extent to which Saudi Arabia under the guidance of the Crown Prince is willing to open up the kingdom. The program is also an acknowledgement of the importance of foreign investors and specialist to ensure the success of Vision 2030, which aims to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil, diversify the economy, and develop public and private sector services.