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Saudi Arabia to Grant Citizenship to “A Number of Distinguished People With Rare Expertise

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

In a landmark move, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud approved granting citizenship of the Kingdom to "several distinguished individuals with rare expertise and specialisations," the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Saudi Arabia to Grant Citizenship to “A Number of Distinguished People With Rare Expertise

The approval comes "in light of the royal order to open the door for the naturalisation of legal, medical, scientific, cultural, sports and technical professionals who contribute to advancing the wheel of development and benefit the country in various fields," SPA reported.

The move is part of measures to implement Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, which aims to make the Kingdom a significant business hub and diversify its economy by reducing its current dependence on oil.

Arab News, the largest-circulation English-language daily in Saudi Arabia, reports that the new approval includes citizenship for experts "in the fields of forensics and medicine, technology, agriculture, nuclear and renewable energy, oil and gas, and artificial intelligence, as well as for specialists in the arts, sports and culture."

However, the process of naturalisation will be restricted. "The granting of citizenship to a limited number of such individuals will be done by nomination based on public interest, and there will be no opportunity to submit applications," Saudi Gazette reported.

Saudi Arabia has stringent citizenship laws, with foreigners traditionally not granted citizenship. Existing regulations require non-Muslims to convert to Islam before being eligible for citizenship. The rules require applicants to have been permanent residents of Saudi Arabia for at least five years. These applicants must present a certificate from a Muslim religious authority documenting their religion.

Saudi Arabia is the second Gulf nation to liberalise citizenship procedures, after the United Arab Emirates. In January, the UAE offered citizenship to selected categories, including "investors, doctors, specialists, inventors, scientists, talents, intellectuals, artists and their families."

Like the Saudi system, the UAE does not allow applications for citizenship. Instead, professionals are nominated by members of the royal family or officials, with the cabinet giving final approval.

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