How to Acquire Saudi Arabian Citizenship

How to Acquire Saudi Arabian Citizenship

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East and renowned for its abundant natural resources. It holds the world's second-largest proven oil reserves. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is one of the central hubs of Islam, housing two of its holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.

The country's advantages attract numerous expatriates to Saudi Arabia, with 13.4 million foreigners residing in the country, constituting nearly 42% of the total population.

But how to become a citizen in Saudi Arabia? Typically, it can be challenging for foreigners to obtain citizenship in Gulf countries. However, in recent years, Saudi Arabia has streamlined its naturalisation rules and relaxed the requirements for obtaining a Kingdom passport. Continue reading to discover how to acquire Saudi Arabian citizenship and what are the Saudi citizenship requirements.

Why Seek Saudi Arabian Citizenship?

What are the benefits of the Saudi citizenship? The Saudi passport offers numerous advantages to its citizens that are not available to foreigners residing and working in the country. Firstly, Saudi citizens are exempt from special fees imposed on expatriates. Additionally, salaries of Saudi citizens are not subject to taxation.

Saudi citizens find it easier to secure employment and establish businesses within the country. They have the privilege of purchasing real estate anywhere in the nation, including Mecca and Medina. Furthermore, they enjoy a range of social benefits, including access to free education, healthcare, and pension provisions.

Moreover, citizenship of Saudi Arabia gives you the freedom to travel. Saudi Arabia's passport is ranked 63rd in the Henley Passport Index by Henley & Partners consultancy, which assesses passport strength based on travel freedom. Saudi citizens typically enjoy visa-free access to countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, with passport holders having entry privileges to 83 countries.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo: mohammed alorabi (Unsplash)

Citizenship by Birth

So how to get Saudi nationality? Under Saudi Arabian nationality law, an individual born to a Saudi father, whether within or outside the country, is eligible to acquire Saudi citizenship. A child can also become a citizen of the Kingdom if born to a Saudi mother and a stateless father or if born within the country to parents of unknown nationality.

Children born in Saudi Arabia to foreign parents or a Saudi mother and a foreign father are considered foreigners. The latter can apply for Saudi citizenship upon reaching the legal age if they meet the following criteria:

  • Possess permanent resident status in the country.
  • Demonstrate good conduct with no criminal convictions or imprisonment exceeding six months for moral offences.
  • Exhibit a proficient knowledge of the Arabic language.
  • Submit their citizenship application within one year from reaching the age of majority.

Minor children of foreigners who have obtained Saudi citizenship are also regarded as Saudi citizens if they reside in the country. Within one year after reaching the age of majority, they have the option to choose their father's original citizenship. To exercise this choice, they must inform the Interior Ministry Agency for Passports and Civil Affairs or its overseas mission and surrender all Saudi documents in their possession. If these children reside outside Saudi Arabia, they are considered foreigners and can apply for Saudi citizenship within one year after reaching the age of majority.

Citizenship by Marriage

How to obtain Saudi citizenship by marriage? A foreign woman married to a Saudi man has the opportunity to acquire Saudi citizenship. To do so, she must satisfy several conditions:

  • Renounce her original citizenship
  • Provide evidence of the marriage's validity.
  • Be in a marriage that adheres to the country's regulations governing unions between a Saudi and a foreigner.
  • Submit a declaration affirming the absence of any prior criminal convictions or moral offences.
  • Not have any annotations or restrictions recorded with the relevant authorities.
  • Reside in Saudi Arabia.

What other requirements are there for getting citizenship in Saudi Arabia by marriage? Furthermore, a foreign woman must be married to a Saudi man for a minimum of five years to be eligible for citizenship. If she does not meet this requirement, her application may still be considered if she fulfils one or more of the conditions listed below.

Years of marriage and number of children
Four years, no children
one of the wife’s siblings holds Saudi citizenship
one of the wife’s siblings holds Saudi citizenship
the husband is a distant relative of the wife
the husband is a highly skilled professional, for example, a doctor or an engineer
the age difference between the spouses is less than five years
Three years
the wife has no children, but she has several brothers or sisters who are Saudis
if the wife has no Saudi relatives she must have at least one child
Two years, no children
the wife’s mother is Saudi
the wife complies with the conditions of the Article 8 of the Saudi nationality law, which regulates the rules of obtaining citizenship by a child of a Saudi mother and a foreign father, which are mentioned above
One year, one child
one of the wife’s siblings is Saudi
the wife was born in Saudi Arabia to foreign parents
the husband is a distant relative of the wife
the husband is a highly skilled professional, for example, a doctor or an engineer
the age difference between the spouses is less than five years

What other opportunities are there to get citizenship in Saudi Arabia? A foreign widow of a Saudi national can also obtain Saudi citizenship. To be eligible, she must:

  • Confirm the validity of her marriage.
  • Renounce her foreign citizenship.
  • Remain unmarried.
  • Reside in Saudi Arabia.
  • Submit a declaration confirming no prior convictions for criminal or moral offences.
  • Have no notes or restrictions registered with the competent authorities.
  • Have children of legal age from her deceased Saudi husband.

The wife of a foreigner who has obtained Saudi citizenship will also receive a Saudi passport if she renounces her original citizenship within one year.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Stijn te Strake (Unsplash)

Citizenship by Naturalisation

How to become a Saudi citizen as a professional? In 2021, Saudi Arabia made the decision to extend citizenship to highly skilled foreign professionals. This initiative was introduced as part of the Vision 2030 program, which aims to diversify the country's economy away from oil dependence and promote development in healthcare, infrastructure, education, and tourism. According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), citizenship is granted to world-class experts and talents with exceptional capabilities in fields such as religion, medicine, science, culture, sports, and technology. The eligibility criteria for naturalisation-based citizenship in Saudi Arabia entail continuous and legal residency in the country for a minimum of 10 years, with at least five of those years under permanent residence status..

What requirements are there for getting Saudi nationality for expats? The law stipulates that foreigners can obtain citizenship upon the following conditions: 

  • Age over 18.
  • Legal ability to attain Saudi Arabian citizenship.
  • Permanent residence status for the past five years.
  • Good conduct with no criminal convictions.
  • Legal and stable income.

How does it look like to get citizenship in Saudi Arabia? When a foreigner submits an application for Saudi citizenship, a committee comprising three members is established to verify the following:

  • The applicant entered the Kingdom legally and possesses a valid passport that allows for return to their home country.
  • The applicant has maintained continuous residence in the Kingdom for 10 years.
  • The applicant is employed in one of the professions that the country requires, such as a scientist, doctor, engineer, or any rare specialty.

Once this information is confirmed, the committee assesses the application using three criteria: the duration of residency in Saudi Arabia, educational qualifications, and family connections with Saudis. These criteria collectively account for a total of 33 points. If the applicant scores more than 23 points, the committee recommends the application for further consideration. Let's discover this point-based system for getting citizenship in Saudi Arabia for foreigners.

Conditions for obtaining citizenship
Duration of residence
At least 10 years of continuous residence in Saudi Arabia
PhD in medicine or engineering
PhD in other sciences
Master’s degree
Bachelor’s degree
Family ties with Saudis
Saudi father
Мать и её отец — саудовцы
Saudi mother
Mother and father are both Saudis
One or two Saudi children and brothers
More than two Saudi children and brothers

You can apply for citizenship if you are a business owner or working for a local company and if you have lived in the country for more than 10 years. However, the way the point system works makes it impossible to score a sufficient number of points without high qualifications or family ties in the country.

Prophet's Mosque, Medina, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Yasmine Arfaoui (Unsplash)

Foreign Specialists Who Have Obtained Saudi Citizenship

How to get Saudi citizenship? Are there any real exemples? In 2021, Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to a group of talented expats including sportsmen, doctors, clerics, financial experts, and scientists. 

According to the Saudi Gazette, three football stars have acquired Saudi citizenship: Abdulfattah Adam, Mukhtar Ali, and Haroune Camara. They were born in the Kingdom and have represented the national team on several occasions. Renowned mathematician and economist Dr. Manahel Thabet has also been granted citizenship. She holds the distinction of being the youngest Arab woman to earn a Ph.D. in financial engineering. Another financial expert holding a Saudi passport is Ihab Khalil, a partner at BCG consultancy. As reported by Bloomberg, he played a significant role in shaping the strategy of the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Fund and contributing to the nation's economic development. Distinguished scientist Omar Mounes Yaghi, a pioneer in reticular chemistry and a professor at the University of Berkeley, has also been bestowed with Saudi citizenship.

Furthermore, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper has reported that several professors at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, specialising in fields such as materials production, communications technology, and petroleum engineering, have obtained Saudi passports. The newspaper also highlights that several highly qualified specialists from the King Faisal Hospital and Research Centre, as well as other esteemed physicians, have been granted citizenship in the Kingdom. Notably, renowned historians and scholars of Islam have also joined the ranks of Saudi citizens. This includes former Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mustafa Ceric, Secretary General of the Islamic-Arab Council in Lebanon Mohammed al-Husseini, historian specialising in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region Abdullah Saleh Abdullah, among others. So, as we can see, Saudi nationality is pretty available for foreigners.

How to Apply for Saudi Citizenship? 

How does it look like to apply for Saudi citizenship? Saudi Arabian citizenship is conferred by the Prime Minister based on the recommendation of the Minister of Interior. You have the option to apply for Kingdom citizenship personally or through a legal representative, either at the Ministerial Agency of Civil Affairs or at the country's diplomatic missions abroad.

The application procedure is as follows:

  • The application is registered, and the applicant is issued a voucher containing the registration number and date. 
  • The applicant fills out and signs the application, submits photographs and gets the stamp of the Agency of Civil Affairs.
  • The applicant fills out three copies of a special form with personal details.
  • The applicant submits copies of all requisite documents, including certified documents translated into Arabic, verifying the applicant's qualifications, income, mental health, religious affiliation, political activities, and military service. 
  • The Agency of Civil Affairs explains the laws regarding admission to Saudi Arabian citizenship and the applicant signs the relevant form as understanding and acceptance of these conditions.

How many documents do I need to apply for Saudi citizenship? Documents you may need:

  • A birth certificate or any other official document verifying your birth in Saudi Arabia.
  • A residence permit (iqama) or passport entries substantiating your permanent residence in the country.
  • A medical statement from a public hospital attesting to your mental and physical health.
  • Documentation confirming proficiency in the Arabic language.
  • An income certificate and qualifications from your employer.
  • A certificate of no criminal record.

The Minister of Interior holds the authority to reject an application without providing a specific reason. Only the King of Saudi Arabia possesses the prerogative to confer citizenship upon foreigners who do not meet the established legal criteria. Decrees and rulings regarding the granting, revocation, or reinstatement of citizenship gain official status upon their publication in the Umm Al-Qura newspaper.

Hisma Desert, Saudi Arabia. Photo: NEOM (Unsplash)

Dual Citizenship

How to become a citizen of Saudi Arabia and save the current nationality? Saudi Arabia does not allow dual citizenship. Saudis cannot hold foreign citizenship without a special permission from the Kingdom's Prime Minister. 

A Saudi woman who acquires foreign citizenship forfeits her Saudi citizenship unless she submits a request to retain it within one year. Minor children who attain foreign citizenship alongside their father will lose their Saudi citizenship, but they have the opportunity to reclaim it within one year after reaching the age of majority. 

Loss of Saudi Citizenship 

Saudi authorities can deprive you of your citizenship in the following cases:

  • If you have obtained another citizenship without permission.
  • If you are employed by another country’s military.
  • If you work for an enemy foreign state.
  • If you persist in working for a foreign state or international organisation without adhering to the requirement to resign.

In all of these instances, a Saudi citizen receives a notification about the impending citizenship revocation three months before the decision is finalised. Following the revocation, you will be unable to re-enter the country and reside within its borders.

If you are a naturalised Saudi citizen, your citizenship may be revoked within five years of acquiring the passport if:

  • You have been convicted in a criminal case or sentenced to imprisonment for more than one year.
  • You have infringed upon public safety.

Furthermore, citizenship can be revoked if the Saudi authorities determine that it was obtained by mistake or through fraudulent means. In such cases, all close relatives of the naturalised foreigner will also lose their citizenship.

Are There Other Ways to Legally Stay in Saudi Arabia?

How can I stay in Saudi Arabia if I can not get Saudi citizenship? You can legally reside in the Kingdom without obtaining citizenship by obtaining residency, known as a local residence permit. There are two types of residence permits in the country: temporary and permanent. The temporary permit is valid for one year and requires regular renewal. It can be obtained through local employment or a one-time contribution of over 100,000 riyals ($26,700). If you wish to extend your temporary residence permit for investment purposes, you will need to make the same contribution again. For a contribution exceeding 800,000 riyals ($213,000), you can obtain a permanent residence permit in the country.

When you apply for residency, your family members can also obtain it. In Saudi Arabia, a permanent residence permit is inheritable. Individuals with temporary residence permits can apply for permanent residence after residing in the country for five years.

How often do people decide to get a local residence permit but not a citizenship in Saudi Arabia? Due to the complexity of the naturalisation process, many expatriates in Saudi Arabia choose to live with a residence permit without applying for citizenship.

In a Nutshell

In conclusion, this article tells how to become Saudi Arabia citizen and how to apply for Saudi nationality. Saudi Arabia aims to empower individuals seeking citizenship as part of its economic development program. However, only a select few can realistically expect to obtain a Kingdom passport, primarily those with established close family ties in the country. Additionally, highly skilled specialists have the opportunity to acquire Saudi citizenship, but this typically requires being a world-class talent or possessing truly unique skills that are of significant benefit to the nation.

Cover photo: Mecca, Saudi Arabia;

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