What is the change? In April, the Saudi Cabinet approved Vision 2030, a comprehensive 15-year plan to diversify the economy, reduce reliance on oil, attract foreign investment and create jobs. The plan contains proposals relevant to foreign business visitors and expatriate workers.

What does the change mean? Among the proposals related to immigration, the government would introduce sector-based special zones, including a financial special zone with visa exemptions, and would build a more robust tourism sector with improved visa procedures for visitors. The deputy crown prince has also publicly announced that a residency permit system similar to the U.S. green-card system will be developed within five years.

  • Implementation time frame: The plan will be implemented in phases over the next 15 years.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals seeking to visit, invest in or work in Saudi Arabia.
  • Impact on processing times: The plan calls for improving visa procedures for visitors. Also, a visa exemption has been proposed for a special zone in a restructured King Abdullah Financial District that will be connected to the international airport.
  • Business impact:The changes are expected to have a positive impact on business by attracting direct foreign investment.
  • Next steps:Details of the proposals have yet to be released.

Background: The fall in oil prices has spurred the government to develop other areas of the economy to make up for budget shortfalls. Vision 2030 contains some bold promises, such as privatizing government services, offering stock shares in a portion of Saudi Aramco, increasing women’s participation in the workforce to 30 percent and reducing unemployment to single digits. The plan recognizes that improving the business environment will help attract foreign investors.

BAL Analysis: The immigration-related ideas are intended to make the kingdom’s policies more conducive to foreign investment and tourism revenue. BAL is following Vision 2030 and will report changes as the government releases additional details.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Saudi Arabia. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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