Finding someone to sponsor your travels to Saudi Arabia has always been a barrier to enter the kingdom. But, it seems as though the times are a-changing.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia's Shura Council approved a Green Card-style residency program dubbed "Privileged Iqama." With it, the kingdom hopes to pull in entrepreneurs and investors from countries abroad. The program seeks to offer a wide array of benefits to "highly skilled expats" and owners of "capital funds." One major benefit is the fact that these individuals would not need a sponsor or employer to enter the country.
The possibility of losing one's job - and thus, sponsor - often deters expats from investing in the respective country of residence, even if they've been living there for decades. Instead, many prefer investing money in their native countries. With the new scheme, the country seems to be offering expats more security and stability in return for investments.
The Shura Council, a 150-member parliament, approves draft proposals and laws before referring the matter to Saudi Arabia's King Salman for final approval.
Under the program, individuals with a "Privileged Iqama" will also be able to recruit workers and own property, among other things. Those with the so-called Green Card will also have designated queues at airports, which can also make the process at customs much faster.
Eligible residents should have "a valid passport, adequate financial resources and not be less than 21 years in age," according to Gulf News.
It is not yet clear when the new system will take effect, but the discussion has been around for years.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that the country plans to issue permanent residency "green cards" for expatriates as part of the kingdom's Vision 2030. At the time, the prince said the process will take up to five years to be implemented.
So, maybe the time has come now - two years earlier than initially announced?