Saudi Arabia Abolished Kafala System, Offer “Green Card” for Highly Skilled Foreigners

Saudi Arab has abolished decades-old Kafala system under which a migrant worker’s immigration status is legally bound to an individual employer or sponsor (kafeel) during the contract period, according to a report by Arab News on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had revealed in 2016 that the kingdom plans to introduce a United States-style green card system to help the kingdom reduce remittances and also get rid of its sponsorship system.

The new ‘privileged’ iqama law will seek to provide “qualified” foreigners residency without the need for a Saudi sponsor.

Under the law, the holder of such an iqama will have family status, can recruit workers, own property and transport in the kingdom, can obtain visit visas for relatives, can freely enter and exit the country and will also have the use of designated queues at airports.

Two categories will be offered – an extended iqama valid for an unlimited period, and a second with a one-year validity which will be subject to renewal.

Eligible expatriates must have a valid passport with a credit report, adequate financial resources, a health report and no criminal record.

The benefits on offer include the ability to recruit of workers; ownership of property and transport; employment in the private sector, commerce and industry; freedom of movement and exit from the Kingdom and return; and the use of designated queues at airports.

Expats will also have to pay a specific fee for the iqama, the amount for which will be finalised under executive regulations. A separate centre will also be set up to handle such cases.