Over 2.7 million Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia to benefit from new green card

Billboards showing portraits of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan displayed on a roadside ahead of the prince's arrival in Islamabad on Feb. 15, 2019. (AFP/File)
Updated 15 May 2019

Over 2.7 million Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia to benefit from new green card

  • “Privileged Iqama” scheme first mentioned by Saudi Crown Prince Salman nearly three years ago
  • Once approved, new system will end the need for expatriates to have a local sponsor, or “kafeel”

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s green-lighting of a new residency scheme for expatriates is a game-changer for 2.7 million Pakistanis living in the Kingdom, business officials and experts said, and might finally give expatriates who can pay a required fee the right to live, work and own business and property in the Kingdom.
The new residency scheme, officially known as a “Privileged Iqama” and commonly referred to as the Saudi “green card,” was first mentioned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman nearly three years ago. Those eligible will be able to choose between an annual renewable option or permanent residency, with indefinite leave to remain in exchange for a higher, one-off fee. Saudi government officials have told Arab News that the scheme now awaits cabinet approval. “This is a very positive and long-awaited step,” Sehr Kamran, President of the Center for Pakistan and Gulf Studies, told Arab News. “It will give confidence to the expatriate community, especially the investors, since many people had been losing their businesses to Kafeels (Saudi sponsors).”
Once approved, this new system will end the need for expatriates to have a local sponsor, or “kafeel.” For those who already bend the rules by constantly renewing limited visitor visas, there will no longer be “visa runs” every few months. It will also eliminate long queues at embassies.
Without a Kafeel, a foreigner cannot do business in Saudi Arabia, and a local sponsor has controlling share over businesses, often leading to disputes.
“The biggest benefit [of the new scheme] is that Pakistanis who have been living there are aware of their language, and they can invest in small and medium size businesses and employ other Pakistanis without relying on local partners,” Rizwan-ul-Haq, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia told Arab News.
“If mid-to-large scale businesses are assured of legal rights and a conducive environment, they would definitely move to Saudi Arabia. The educational and hospitality sector can boom,” he added.
Pakistan’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia stood at $1.871 billion in 2017-18 with exports amounting to $170 million and imports at $1.7 billion. Since 1971, Pakistanis have contributed toward building the Kingdom’s infrastructure. They remit nearly $6 billion from Saudi Arabia every year.
In order to be eligible for the new green card scheme, expatriates must meet several criteria including having a valid passport, clean criminal record, financial solvency, and authentic credit and health reports.
Farhan Ahmed, the CEO of an Islamabad-based travel and tourism company, said Riyadh’s decision was encouraging for Pakistan’s business community.
“This is a very positive and encouraging move. It gives hope to the business community to go and invest there without concerns over the protection of their investment,” Ahmed said, adding that he would definitely consider availing the opportunity “after proper consideration.”


Indictment postponed for alleged Mumbai attacks' mastermind

Updated 27 min 34 sec ago

Indictment postponed for alleged Mumbai attacks' mastermind

  • JUD chief's indictment on terror financing charges will now take place on Dec. 11
  • Pakistan is striving to convince FATF it is doing its best to curb illicit financial flows

LAHORE: An Anti-Terrorism Court on Saturday could not indict Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the proscribed Jamaat-ud-Dawa organization, since one of his co-accused, Hafiz Zafar Iqbal, could not be brought before the judge by the authorities.
Saeed’s indictment on terror financing charges was expected on December 7, but the court adjourned the case against him after instructing the authorities to produce all accused individuals on the next hearing.
“Hafiz Saeed was produced before the court but the proceedings were adjourned till December 11,” his lawyer, Imran Fazal Gill, told Arab News. “The prosecution had not attached scrutiny report with the challan. The co-accused, Hafiz Zafar Iqbal, could not be produced in the court since he had to attend the proceedings of another case in Gujranwala. That deferred the indictment process.
Saeed was brought to the court amidt high security from Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail. It is worth mentioning that the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of the Punjab Police has registered 23 complaints against the JuD chief and his accomplices on terror financing charges in various cities of the province.
According to the authorities, Saeed collected funds using various trusts and non-profit organizations to finance terrorism. Under pressure from the international community, Pakistan has been probing JuD and its affiliate organizations.
Saeed is accused of being the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that claimed about 160 lives in India’s commercial capital. The United Nations Security Council, through a resolution, put sanctions on his organization and declared its office bearers as terrorists.
Implementing the UN resolution, Prime Minister Imran Khan recently directed the authorities to implement the National Action Plan while chairing the National Security Committee’s meeting. Subsequently, investigations were launched against Saeed and his fellows.
The government also took over the religious seminaries and schools run by the trusts operated by Saeed and the JuD.
Pakistan is striving to come out of the FATF grey list and has told the global watchdog that it is doing everything to curb money laundering and terror financing.