In an effort to “promote the economy,” Bahrain has initiated the development of long-term visas for foreigners, following in the footsteps of some of its Gulf neighbours.
Bahrain, like much of the Gulf region, is recognized as a centre for professional ex-pats, with just over half of its 1.7 million population made up of foreigners. In the face of volatile oil prices, many of the region’s countries have sought to diversify their economies away from reliance on fossil fuels, and have relaxed immigration policies in order to recruit expertise.
Despite a $10 billion bailout package provided by its wealthier neighbours in 2018, Bahrain is experiencing fiscal difficulties. Late last year, the UAE announced intentions to increase its value-added tax to 10%, the highest rate in the Gulf after Saudi Arabia, in an effort to boost state revenue and reduce one of the region’s largest budget deficits.
Despite their reliance on millions of foreign workers, oil-rich Gulf monarchies have long resisted giving permanent residency, defending considerable benefits enjoyed by their residents.
The new Bahraini visa dubbed the “golden residence,” is available to anyone with a salary of at least 2,000 dinars (about $5,300) or retirees with a month of 4,000 dinars. Those who possess homes worth at least 200,000 dinars, as well as “skilled” persons, are also eligible for the golden dwelling, according to the government.
“The visa allows for ten years of residency in the kingdom, which can be renewed ‘indefinitely’ if specific conditions are met. The golden residency, which is part of the economic recovery plan… would contribute to boosting the Kingdom of Bahrain’s competitiveness and supporting development paths,” the ministry stated, adding that it would “attract talent.”
The proposal is similar to one made by the United Arab Emirates, which announced in late 2020 the introduction of a 10-year “golden residence” for doctors, PhD holders, and engineers. This was accompanied by the “green visa” in September 2021, which enables UAE residents to function without direct visa sponsorship by their employers, under what is known as the “kafala” system that is popular throughout the region.
Likewise, gas-rich Qatar stated in late 2020 that property or business owners would be awarded the right to residency permits.
In an effort to strengthen its economy, Oman also proposed a long-term resident visa for investors in the summer of 2021. The golden residency comes with a slew of advantages, including the following:
- entry permits for their family members, including their spouse, children, and parents
- sponsoring domestic staff
- obtaining employment in the Kingdom without the need for employer sponsorship
The golden residence will be renewed every ten years, according to the announcement. Furthermore, based on the individual’s eligibility, there is the option of implementing renewal for an endless duration.
The golden residency program aims to increase investment opportunities that encourage economic activity and work in accordance with Bahrain’s “Economic Vision 2030.” It also strives to avoid regular operations while increasing the Kingdom’s digitalization.
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