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Saudi Arabia Expands and Digitalise Investor Visa

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CEM REPORT, TRADE | With a focus on improving the investment environment and facilitating the start of business activities, Saudi Arabia has commenced the second phase of its investor visa scheme, expanding its coverage to include all countries worldwide.

In this phase, international investors no longer have to visit a Saudi embassy to get a visa to travel to the Kingdom as the process for applying for the permit has been moved online.

According to Mohammed Abahussain, Deputy of Integrated Investors Services at the Ministry of Investment, the e-visa service is designed to provide international prospects and employees of foreign entities the opportunity to apply for an electronic visitor visa through the ministry’s platform.

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He noted that the need for physical visits to Saudi missions abroad for biometric data collection had also been eliminated as the platform is designed to manage the application process and digitally issue the authorization through the unified national visa platform of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Abahussain explained that the e-visa which can be used for multiple entries and has a validity period of up to one year aligns with the nation’s Vision 2030 initiative.

Furthermore, the expansion includes individuals from countries listed on the “Invest in Saudi Arabia” platform, those holding valid tourist or business visas from the US, the UK, or Schengen countries, and those with permanent residency in the US, the UK, or EU countries.

Additionally, individuals holding valid residency for a minimum of three months in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and entities licensed by the Ministry of Investment for three immediate visas per year can also benefit.

Saudi Arabia has seen a surge of over 135 per cent in foreign investment licenses, reaching 2,192 permits during the third quarter of 2023 as part of a push to attract global businesses to set up operations in the Kingdom.

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According to the Ministry of Investment, this is an increase of 1,261 visas compared to the same period in 2022, excluding permits issued under the “Tasattur” anti-concealment campaign.

In the second quarter of 2023, the direct foreign investment balance in the Kingdom increased by 0.6 per cent compared to the previous quarter, as shown in the ministry’s report for November 2023.

Foreign trade experienced a 3.1 per cent decline in the third quarter of 2023 annually, leading to a 55.4 per cent decrease in the trade balance during the same period. This was mainly a result of a 31.8 per cent decrease in total exports.

The data also indicated that government revenues reached approximately SR258.5 billion ($68.93 billion) in the third quarter of 2023, marking a 14.4 per cent decrease on an annual basis, while government expenses totalled around SR294.3 billion in the third quarter, representing a 2.3 per cent increase on an annual basis.

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