UAE, Saudi Arabia launch new Green Card systems

The two Gulf countries have permanent visa programs in place for non-nationals in a bid to boost their economies.

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São Paulo – The governments of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have just launched permanent residency programs for non-nationals along the lines of the United States’ Green Card. Both countries are home to major expatriate contingents – in the UAE they even outnumber the natives.

The UAE’s Golden Card program was announced on Tuesday (21). Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported that investors, entrepreneurs, specialized talents, researchers and outstanding students can apply.

Abu Dhabi newspaper The National reported that non-nationals in the UAE get renewable visas valid for two or three years, often in connection with their jobs. The new program ensures permanent residence to the person entitled, their spouse and children.

“It is a permanent residency for investors and for exceptional workers in the fields of health, engineering, science and art,” The National quoted UAE vice president and prime minister and Dubai ruler Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum as saying.

There are 6,800 people from 70 different countries living in Dubai that fit the bill, according to WAM.

The UAE government believes the Golden Card will help bring in foreign investment and drive the economy. Investments made by expatriates who fit the profile for permanent residency amount to a combined AED 100 billion, or USD 27.2 billion.

“Throughout history, the UAE opened its door to millions of people looking for to pursue their dreams and better their lives. The Golden Card is our way to welcome all those seeking to be a part of the UAE’s success story and making it a second home,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid..

Iqama

Likewise, the Saudi government launched last week the Special Residency System “Iqama,” nicknamed “Green Card,” as an alternative to the now active “Kafala”, which requires the expatriate to have an employer’s permission to live in the country, as well as an entry and exit visa. For the first time, the country will grant residence permits without a patron.

The new Saudi program grants permanent or temporary residency, which is valid for one year and renewable. Therefore, the foreigner will have the freedom to enter or exit the country whenever they want without a new visa.

The system assures the expatriate the right to take their family to the country, make business, own properties, vehicles and other assets, get and change jobs on the private sector, join the lines reserved for native Saudis at immigration offices, hire domestic employees, grant their relatives visitor visas, and other benefits. Like the UAE, the Saudi government intends to attract investors and skilled workers in several areas, except those restricted to native workers.

It is estimated that around 10 million foreigners currently live in Saudi Arabia under the Kafala program, and many of them send money to their families in their home countries. With this new system, the Saudis expect to reduce remittances abroad – retaining currency – encourage investments and consumption, and generally develop the economy.

Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum & Guilherme Miranda

Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

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