Northman & Sterling

Saudi Arabia Premium Residency and UAE Golden Visa: Which is Better for Expats?

Both Gulf nations have cemented their status as regional hubs for business and innovation, but can the new Saudi visas live up to the potential and flexibility of the UAE’s 10-year Golden Visa?

The UAE and, more recently, Saudi Arabia have opened up medium- to long-term visa opportunities for high net-worth individuals, investors, and talented people to attract foreign skills and investment and diversify their economies effectively.

While both Gulf countries unveiled plans independently, their residency programs each contain similar elements that could boost socio-economic development across the region.

The UAE launched the Golden Visa in 2018 while Saudi Arabia launched their revised and expanded Premium Residency visas earlier this month.

According to a legal expert, here are the key similarities and differences.

Eligibility and scope

  • The Golden Visa takes a broader scope by welcoming specialists, entrepreneurs, investors, and outstanding students to the UAE, whereas Saudi’s Premium Residency focuses on specific investment categories, special talents, and key professions.

Those eligible for the UAE Golden Visa include:

  • Public sector investors
  • Real estate investors
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Outstanding specialized talents
  • Inventors
  • Creatives in the fields of culture and art
  • Executive Directors
  • Athletes
  • Specialists in science and engineering
  • Outstanding high school and university students
  • Frontline workers
  • Pioneers of humanitarian work

Saudi Arabia’s Premium Residency categories:

  • Special Talent (including researchers and executives, healthcare and science)
  • Gifted individuals (sports, cultural, and artistic talents)
  • Investor
  • Entrepreneur
  • Real Estate owner
  • Limited and unlimited duration

“These distinctions reflect each country’s unique strategic objectives and economic contexts. The UAE’s approach is broader, encompassing a wider range of talents and investment opportunities, while Saudi Arabia’s program is more targeted,” said Jean Abboud, Partner at law firm BSA.

Residency duration and renewal

  • The UAE Golden Visa offers options for five or 10-year residency, which is renewable. Visa holders can stay outside the UAE for more than six months without losing their residency. This feature is not explicitly mentioned in the Saudi program.
  • Saudi’s Premium Residency includes both limited-duration and unlimited-duration options, with the limited ones being renewable.

Family Sponsorship

  • One of the key benefits of both visas is self-sponsorship, for example; not relying on an employer or company for sponsorship. This advantage also extends to family sponsorship for both.
  • However, the Golden Visa offers “more flexibility by not placing an age limit on the children who can be sponsored,” and visa holders can sponsor an unlimited number of domestic helpers. Their family members can stay in the UAE until the end of their permit, and if the primary holder passes away.

Investment thresholds

  • The UAE requires property investment of a minimum of AED2 million, whereas Saudi Arabia sets the minimum at SAR4 million.
  • For business investors, the UAE requires a deposit of AED2 million or a similar investment in a business, while Saudi Arabia has set a minimum investment of SAR7 million for its investor residency.
  • Experts say that the new Saudi visas are expected to have a direct effect on foreign investment inflows.

Path to permanent residency

  • Saudi Arabia provides clear pathways to permanent residency under certain conditions in its special talent and other categories
  • The UAE, however, does not offer a path to permanent residency. The Golden Visa is primarily a long-term residency option.

Future Prospects of Gulf Residency Program

The UAE Golden Visa and Saudi Arabia Premium Residency are both designed to attract talent and investment to their countries. The UAE’s program embraces a diverse array of talents, offering long-term residency, while Saudi Arabia’s approach is more targeted, paving the path to permanent residency. Together, these visas are transforming the region into a prime destination for skilled individuals and investors.

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Noor Nadeem