Saudi Arabia has introduced an Investor Visa, the third Gulf country in nine months to do so. Permanent residence starts at €187,000, whilst 12-month renewable residencies are available from €23,000.

The new “Premium Residency” program, which was approved in May, is now open for applications through a government-administered website.

Under the new plan, foreigners will not need a Saudi sponsor as previously required, and will be able to purchase real estate, start employment, conduct business, enter and leave as they wish, as well as sponsor residence permits for their family members.

The program is open to applicants aged 21 and over with a clean criminal record and bill of health who can demonstrate financial stability.

Economy Minister, Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, states that the plan will ensure residents and expatriates play an active role in Saudi Arabia’s economy, including those who have lived in the kingdom for decades.

Previously, foreign employees have been subject to significant monthly fees to incentivise private firms to favour local employees. Resident foreigners also needed local sponsors and permission to come and go from the country and were unable to own property.

This, along with terrible growth in economic output (0.7% in 2017), has resulted in several hundred thousand expats leaving the country in recent years – a trend the new ruler hopes to reverse.

Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince and de facto regent, first proposed the program; it is part of a wider strategy to improve foreign investment and decrease the economy’s oil dependency.

When putting the idea out in 2016, the monarch made a seemingly ambitious estimate that the scheme would raise around US$10 billion annually by 2020.

However, Saudi Arabia’s Investor Visa has a customer group of thousands of wealthy Arabs who have resided in the country for decades, and 12 million foreign residents overall, which amounts to more than a third of the total population.

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