Saudi Arabia mulling Green Card system for expats

Published:  6 Apr at 6 PM
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Tagged: Visas, USA, Australia
Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince has put forward the possibility of a visa system for expats which resembles America’s Green Card.

During an interview with Bloomberg, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud mooted the idea of a new visa system based on the American Green Card. The system would, he said, be an important source of new revenue for the kingdom.

Although Prince Mohammed declined to give any further details, it’s clear that the revenue from a Green Card-based visa system used by the massive number of foreigners living and working in Saudi would dramatically boost the kingdom’s non-oil revenue. At present, expats make up one third of the total population and number around nine million.

Saudi Arabia’s government is attempting to put in place a package of financial measures and reforms aimed at stimulating its non-oil revenues to the tune of around $100 billion annually. Should the plan succeed, non-oil income will triple, thus balancing a budget hard-hit by the unprecedented slump on oil prices.

The expat population in Saudi Arabia is split into two sectors, with the majority composed mainly of unskilled workers from Asia employed in the service and construction trades. Western expats account for a much smaller number but are mainly professionals working on contracts and serving private sector corporations linked with the oil trade.

On the negative side, the Saudi government is considering a plan to ban non-Saudi nationals from working in the human resources and private sector recruitment sectors. The ministry concerned has invited comments on the plan from private sector companies in the Kingdom, requesting that comments be entered on its website. The deadline for comments is April 23, with no decisions being made and implemented before then.

The ban, should it be imposed, will mean companies flouting the new legislation will be faced with fines calculated at $3000 per worker. Fines will also be doubled in relation to the numbers of expats employed.
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