Saudi citizenship and immigration policies

 Saudi Arabia is not “home” to anyone who is not born to Saudi parents or is married to a Saudi. Short of these two options, or having something like 3 phds, one cannot ever make Saudi Arabia home as there is no other way to become a citizen.

What does that mean? It means that no matter how long one lives in this country, no matter how much one invests here (emotionally or financially), there is no way of settling down here. Iqamas (residence permits) are issued based on work. Once your work is over, it’s time to leave. Until recently expats were unable to purchase property. This has changed however it does not mean they are allowed to stay if they do not have a job. So retirement in Saudi Arabia after decades of work is not an option.

Part of the reason for exclusivity regarding citizenship is based on tribalism. Social status here is determined by tribal affiliations. Immigrants do not have tribal affiliations and are thus “lower”.  As is, there is plenty of racism in the whole of the GCC.

There are many cases of people who came to KSA 3-4 generations ago, when immigration law was different. All of the younger generations, born and bred in Saudi Arabia, who know no other home, went to public school here, are all married to similar families. No one is married to “pure” Saudis except as second wives.  

post updated: Feb 28, 2009

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One Response

  1. This is an interesting comment. It draws attention to an important but often overlooked fact. An expat can stay as long as he/she works, and then, that’s it. They are out. How can anyone get a sense of “home” under these conditions?

    The Saudis do not want their expats to settle in for good, that’s for sure, but I’m not sure their attitude is borne of a sense of superiority. Could it indicate the opposite– a sense of inferiority, of even a sense of being invaded?

    After all, no one wants the relatives to come for a visit and not go home, even if they do the dishes.

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