Finding someone to sponsor your travels has always been a barrier to entry to Saudi Arabia. But, it looks like the process is changing albeit slowly.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's Cabinet officially approved the "Privileged Iqama" residency scheme, which would allow "highly-skilled" expats to do business in the kingdom without the need for a local sponsor. The Green Card-style residency program would also allow certain expats to live in the kingdom without a kafeel.

The decision comes a week after Saudi Arabia's Shura Council approved a draft plan. 

The Cabinet decision will see the opening of service centers within 90 days to begin processing applications against certain fees. The exact fee amount has not been publicized yet. Eligible candidates may apply for an indefinite stay or for a one-year renewable residency, as reported by Bloomberg.

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, expats - who are owners of capital funds or businesses - will undoubtedly feel more secure and stable with investments made in the kingdom. 

Benefits of the new program

Under the program, individuals with a "Privileged Iqama" will be able to recruit workers and own property, among other things. Those with the so-called Green Card will also hold a family status and be entitled to use the processing service designated for Saudis at airports.

Eligible residents should have "a valid passport, adequate financial resources and not be less than 21 years in age," according to Gulf News.

The residency scheme has been in the works since 2016. That year, 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.