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Owning a property in Mecca or Madina as a foreigner

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Everything you need to know is included in our Saudi Arabia Property Pack

Can foreigners own property in Mecca and Madina? While recent hints suggest changes may be coming, as of now, foreign property ownership is not allowed in these holy cities.

However, the Saudi Green Card, introduced in 2019, offers an alternative. Though it doesn't provide full ownership, it grants usufruct rights for 99 years, allowing extensive property use. In this article, we explore the Saudi Green Card, its benefits, eligibility, and how it differs from the Investor Visa.

We also outline the application process and clarify how usufruct rights can be acquired. As the landscape potentially evolves, this article helps you navigate property investment opportunities in Mecca and Madina. For more information, check our Saudi Arabia Property Pack.

Can foreigners own property in Mecca or Madina?

There is anticipation of a new law on the horizon, and from the initial reading, it suggests that foreigners might soon have the opportunity to own real estate in Mecca or Madina.

As of now, however, foreigners are not legally allowed to own properties in these holy cities. There is an alternative avenue, known as the Saudi Green Card or Golden Iqama.

This Premium Residency System was introduced in 2019 with the aim of stimulating the economy, attracting entrepreneurs and investors, and addressing commercial concealment.

So, can you own property in Mecca or Madina with a Saudi Green Card

Technically, you don't have full ownership of the property. However, you can obtain usufruct rights for a period of 99 years.

Usufruct rights for 99 years, essentially a long-term lease agreement in Saudi Arabia, grant an individual or entity exclusive use and enjoyment of a property for nearly a century.

In many ways, this right is similar to ownership because the holder can utilize, lease, or even sell the property during the 99-year period, making it almost as advantageous as full ownership.

However, there are important distinctions. While the holder has significant control over the property, they don't have complete ownership rights, as the property still officially belongs to the original owner.

Additionally, the holder of usufruct rights may not have the same authority to make decisions regarding alterations or developments on the property as an actual owner would.

How does it work?

There are two schemes for the Saudi Premium Residency scheme.

Here are the details.

Aspect One-Year Scheme Permanent Residency Scheme
Time to Residency 3 months 3 months
Minimum Cost SAR 100,000 (about US $26,640) SAR 800,000 (about US $213,120)
Residency Type One-year, renewable Permanent
Family Members Allowed Spouse, children below age 21 Spouse, children below age 21
Family Members Included in Cost Included in the base fee Included in the base fee
Right to Reside in Saudi Arabia Yes Yes
Right to Work in Private Sector Yes Yes
Right to Change Jobs Freely Yes Yes
Right to Own Residential Real Estate Yes (except Mecca, Madina, border areas) Yes (except Mecca, Madina, border areas)
Right to Own Cars and Transportation Yes Yes
Issuing of Visit Visas for Family Yes (parents, grandparents, etc.) Yes (parents, grandparents, etc.)
Right to Invest in Saudi Capital Market Yes Yes
Recruitment of Foreign Domestic Workers Yes Yes
Freedom to Leave and Enter Saudi Arabia Yes Yes
Residency Rights in Case of Holder's Death Spouse and children under 21 Spouse and children under 21
Fee for Application Processing SAR 170 (about US $45) SAR 170 (about US $45)
Additional Notes Renewable annually with a 2% reduction Permanent residency with no annual fees
Payment must be made in advance for reduction Family members (spouse and children) included
Fees are non-refundable if terminated during the year Additional family members can be added for a fee
Suitable for fixed-term investment projects Parents and children over 21 can also apply under sponsorship


Who is eligible for the Saudi Green Card?

To qualify for Premium Residency, you must meet specific requirements:
- Applicants must be at least 21 years old.
- A valid passport is mandatory.
- You need to provide evidence of financial stability.
- A clear criminal record is required.
- You must submit a medical report, not older than 6 months, confirming the absence of communicable diseases.

If applying from within Saudi Arabia, you must have legal residency status in the Kingdom.

What are the other benefits?

We will summarize here for you (we will also include elements previously mentioned).

Family Benefits:
-Immediate family members can reside in Saudi Arabia without paying dependent fees.
- They have the right to live, work, and invest in the country.
- They can change employment or employers freely.
- Other family members can visit Saudi Arabia with a family visit visa.

Property Ownership:
- Cardholders can own residential, commercial, and industrial properties across Saudi Arabia (except Mecca, Madina, and border regions).
- In Mecca and Madina, they can acquire property through a 99-year lease agreement.
- They can also own and license vehicles and transportation within the country.

Business Opportunities:
- Premium Residency holders can invest in the Saudi Capital Market.
- They can work in private organizations and change jobs or employers without sponsorship procedures.
- They can apply for a SAIGA license to establish a 100% foreign-owned onshore entity in Saudi Arabia and start their own businesses.

Convenient Travel:
- Cardholders can freely leave and re-enter Saudi Arabia as often as they wish.
- They have access to lanes designated for Saudi residents at Saudi airports for more efficient travel.

Miscellaneous Benefits:
- Premium Residency holders can recruit foreign domestic workers and arrange their residency with housemaid visas or domestic worker visas.
- In the event of the cardholder's passing, their spouse and children under 21 retain their "KSA green card" rights and benefits, ensuring continued access to privileges.

Is it the same as a Saudi Arabia Investor Visa?

No, the Saudi Arabia Investor Visa and the Saudi Green Card are different.

The Investor Visa requires owning a legal investment entity, while Premium Residency allows direct application.

Also, Premium Residency doesn't need a Saudi sponsor, but Investor Visa does. Investor Visa holders can't work in private sector jobs, while Premium Residency holders can.

Finally, Premium Residency holders can own real estate in their name, but Investor Visa holders can only do so through their investment entity for specific purposes.

What is the application process?

Applying for Saudi Premium Residency is a straightforward process that can be done online.

Here are the steps to follow:

Account Registration:
- Visit the Saudi Arabia Premium Residency portal and click on the "register now" option.
- Fill out the registration form with your personal details, including your full name, passport information, email address, and phone number.
- Verify your email address and phone number.

Complete the Application Form:
- Log in to your newly created account.
- Select the "Request Premium Residency" option.
- Fill out the application form, providing information about yourself, your family, education, occupation, finances, and other necessary details.

Document Submission:
- Upload supporting documents required for your application. These may include scans of your passport, ID, birth certificate, marriage certificate, bank statement, employment contract, and any other relevant documents.
- Once all documents are uploaded, proceed to pay the application processing fee of $170, which can be conveniently paid through the online portal.

Review and Submission:
- Carefully review your application to ensure that all information is accurate and complete.
- Click the "Submit" button to finalize and submit your application.

How do you acquire usufruct rights?

Usufruct rights in Mecca or Madina can typically be acquired through a legal agreement or contract with the property owner, outlining the terms and duration of use.

This agreement is then registered with the appropriate government authorities, providing legal recognition and protection for the holder's rights to use, enjoy, and benefit from the property, without owning it outright.

Then, usufruct rights in Saudi Arabia can be registered with the Ministry of Justice, specifically through the Real Estate Registration Office.

This office handles the legal documentation and registration of various property rights, including usufruct rights, to ensure their validity and protection under Saudi law.