Saudi Arabia offers citizenship to skilled foreign nationals

Saudi Arabia's 'golden handshake' offers citizenship to high-skilled foreign nationals
2 min read
12 November, 2021
Innovative individuals will be granted citizenship as Saudi Arabia attempts to diversify economic revenue sources away from oil.
Offering citizenship to high-skilled foreign workers should be seen as part of Saudi Arabia's willingness to 'open up' to the world, to attract further foreign investment, and to diversify its assets away from non-renewable resources [Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz has decreed that Saudi citizenship will be granted to experts and specialists in selected fields.

According to the kingdom's official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the approval - ratified on Thursday - grants Saudi citizenship to global talents within the "religious, medical, scientific, cultural, sports and technological fields", to "contribute to the development of various sectors throughout the Kingdom". 

The announcement comes as Saudi Arabia attempts to diversify its economy away from oil and towards innovation. Limiting Saudi Arabia’s reliance on the oil sector for revenue will further contribute to meeting the goals pledged by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman during COP26, to transition away from fossil fuels and achieve net zero emissions by 2060.

"The decree makes Saudi Arabia the second Gulf country after the UAE to grant foreigners a larger stake in their economy"

The relaxation of citizenship laws is implemented in tandem with the kingdom's Vision 2030 goal “of creating an attractive environment that enables attracting, investing in and retaining exceptional creative minds”, according to the SPA.

The plan cites the necessity of attracting and retaining “the finest Saudi and foreign minds”, which will “contribute to economic development and attract additional foreign investment”.

Previously, non-Muslims would have had to convert to Islam before being granted citizenship. Applicants would obtain a certificate documenting their religion from a religious authority in order to be considered for naturalisation. The recent decree demonstrates a liberalisation of citizenship procedures not dissimilar to the neighbouring UAE.

The decree makes Saudi Arabia the second Gulf country after the UAE to grant foreigners a larger stake in their economy. The UAE began offering citizenship to foreigners with in-demand skills back in January 2021, after the country struggled with low oil revenues and the economic impact of corona virus.