Saudi ministry clarifies granting of citizenship

JEDDAH — Expatriates seeking Saudi citizenship crowded the offices of Civil Affairs Department across the Kingdom following a report in an Arabic daily concerning granting citizenship to all foreigners born in Saudi Arabia. At least 10,000 foreign children are born in the Kingdom annually, especially in recent years from 2001 to 2006 when a large number of expatriate workers began bringing their families.

By From Habib Shaikh (Our correspondent)

Published: Mon 14 May 2007, 9:01 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:23 AM

According to one report, at least 20,000 foreigners will benefit from the new decision. Soon after the spread of the news, a large number of expatriates born in the Kingdom — Pakistanis, Indians, Yemenis, Egyptians, Syrians, Eritreans, Sudanese and other nationals — thronged Civil Affairs offices across the country to get application forms.

An official source at the Civil Affairs Department in Dammam said they had not received any information on granting citizenship to all foreigners born in the Kingdom. ‘If there is any change in the citizenship law, we’ll be the first to be informed by the authorities,’ the source said.

‘Saudi authorities have started granting citizenship to foreigners born in the Kingdom, who have reached the age of puberty,’ the daily reported quoting Maj Gen. Abdul Qader Kamal, a member of the security committee of the 150-member Shoura Council.

The official said foreigners born in the Kingdom would be given a grace period of one year to decide on either accepting Saudi citizenship or preserving their existing foreign citizenship.

A foreign man will be given citizenship soon after reaching puberty while a foreign woman has to wait until she is married to a Saudi. But an official source at the Interior Ministry and officials at Civil Affairs Department said granting citizenship under the new law was restricted to foreigners born to Saudi mothers. ‘Reports that all foreigners born to non-Saudi fathers and mothers will be given citizenship are not true,’ the ministry source said.

The Civil Affairs Office in Jeddah was also crowded with foreigners seeking citizenship as officials at the office were amazed at the sudden influx of foreigners. Turki Al Malafikh, director of the department, said he was not informed about the new citizenship plan. ‘According to standing instructions, only those foreigners born to Saudi mothers are entitled to get citizenship,’ he said.

The Civil Affairs Office in the holy city of Madinah also witnessed an unprecedented crowd of foreigners. ‘A large number of expatriates, who were born and brought up in Saudi Arabia, visited the department after hearing the news. Many foreigners aspire to become Saudi citizens since the country is home to the Two Holy Mosques. There are others who either don’t want to go back or don’t have a country to return to. They were born and brought up in the Kingdom, speak Arabic and have studied at Saudi schools. Foreigners receiving Saudi citizenship will enjoy many benefits in terms of establishing businesses, receiving health, educational and pension benefits and not being hampered by the Saudisation law.

They will also be able to bring their relatives from abroad on Haj, Umrah and visit visas under their sponsorship. The Cabinet recently changed Article 16 of the Citizenship Law, which now reads as follows: The interior minister can grant Saudi citizenship to a foreign woman married to a Saudi or the foreign widow of a Saudi, if she applies for it and relinquishes her original citizenship. The interior minister can also cancel her Saudi citizenship if she ends her marital relationship with the Saudi for any reason and retains her original citizenship or any other foreign citizenship. The minister can authorise other officials in the ministry to exercise the power mentioned in the article.’

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