By Moustafa Daly
Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s largest economy, just launched five new visas catering to investors, entrepreneurs, and skilled migrants.
Announced by the kingdom’s Premium Residency Center, the new visas will allow foreigners to live, work, study, and own property without needing local sponsors, unlike most other work visa routes there.
Among the new categories, one is specifically designed for foreign property owners in the kingdom. No minimum property value was announced.
Another category is for special talent in sciences, research, and healthcare; the "gifted" route is reserved for those with special talents in arts, sports, culture, or medicine.
Prospective investors and entrepreneurs also have dedicated visa categories.
Saudi’s new visas to compete with UAE and Turkey
The new visas mark Saudi Arabia’s first venture into the residency-by-investment industry (RBI) and signal a departure from restrictive visa policies that have kept a lid on immigration levels in the kingdom.
The move follows the UAE, which launched its golden visa program in 2029 and expanded it in 2021. It’s considered one of the region’s most active and successful programs.
Turkey also has another popular CBI program, one of the oldest in the region.
Both programs now must contend with Saudi Arabia’s new visa plans should they wish to maintain their success.
Why would RBI investors choose Saudi Arabia?
Among the factors in favor of Saudi Arabia’s program are the lack, thus far, of a predetermined investment amount for the investment, start-up, and real estate options, which could attract investors and entrepreneurs looking for a foothold in the region at less cost.
The Kingdom also boasts a markedly larger economy than either country, with a larger consumer base and considerable purchasing power.
The new visas coincide with a government deadline given to international businesses and conglomerates operating in the region. Since Jan. 1, 2024, all such companies must maintain their regional headquarters in the kingdom or lose out on lucrative government contracts. It is seen as a direct blow to the UAE, which until now has had the most regional headquarters for global companies.
Many companies, including Amazon, Alphabet, and Microsoft, have complied with Saudi demands. Such an influx of business activity could help make the new visa categories popular.
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