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Saudi Arabia considering ‘permanent residency’ for expats

RIYADH:  Saudi Arabia is considering a ‘permanent residency’ system for the large expatriate population in the country.

The move is aimed at creating non-oil revenue streams amidst falling oil prices.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman disclosed this proposal during a recent interview to Bloomberg News. He said that among revenue-raising plans, authorities were discussing a program similar to the US Green Card system, that would target the expatriates in the kingdom. He didn’t divulge much about program.

Other steps that authorities were weighing in on are imposing a value-added tax and a levy on energy and sugary drinks as well as luxury items – in a bid to restructure subsidies.

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The “green card” plan disclosed by Deputy Crown Prince has been welcomed by many expatriates. The plan will help expatriates ease away from the tight hold of sponsors, many of whom have been exploiting both white and blue-collar workers.

Though the modalities of how to attain this “green card” needs to be framed carefully, there are essentials that the future card holders will be required to do or get once obtaining the card.

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The plan was welcomed by expatriates especially who have been in the country for three or four decades and whose children were born and bred in the Kingdom. One Indian told me “this is home”. A Filipino engineer living in Riyadh since 1988 said that with the plan more cohesion between expatriates and nationals will evolve.

Over the years, I have been writing on the contribution of expatriates to the Kingdom. I was privileged to be in contact with them due to my stint as editor in chief of both the English language dailies from 1982 to 2014. They (the expatriates) would approach us to voice their grievances, fears, aspirations and quest for justice.

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