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To be a citizen
Expatriates who've been granted Saudi citizenship speak of the pros and cons of being 'counterfeit' nationals, reports Arab News.
July 30, 2009 7:46 by Dana El Baltaji
They dream of Saudi citizenship, but often find the reality to be different from their expectations.
For many longtime expatriate workers and families who often know no other home, Saudi citizenship seems like the bond to forge a lasting relationship with their chosen homeland. The perception is that once you become Saudi, doors open for you and you suddenly become well off. For hardworking entrepreneurs anxious to start businesses in the Kingdom, this may be true, but for the majority of expats-turned-Saudis, this turns out to be more in the realm of myth.
This conclusion was drawn on the basis of interviews with some of those expatriates who have become Saudis. The case of foreign women wanting to become Saudis is totally different. Their quest largely is driven by fear. “What if my Saudi husband divorces me? I will have no option but to leave everything behind. My husband can deport me instantly.” So what are the benefits of becoming a Saudi national? First and foremost is that you are no longer at the mercy of your sponsor. He cannot threaten to deport you if you have a disagreement, and you can seek other employment if he treats you badly.
You also put concerns about resident permits or iqamas, behind you.
“You are free of iqama troubles. That in itself is a big relief,” says Abu Jameel, a Pakistani expat-turned-Saudi. “The other major advantage is the ability to own property, the ability to inherit, the ability to work without sponsorship and own your own company. You can also exit and enter Saudi Arabia without a visa.”
According to a random survey, most would-be Saudis come from the subcontinent and Arab countries.
“I don’t see many men from First World countries desperate to become Saudis – even Muslim Westerners – unless they are married to Saudi women,” said Umm Saad. “The majority of Saudi women married to foreigners try to spend most of their time abroad, as they cannot bear to witness their husbands and children treated so poorly. Most women who become Saudis do so simply to protect inheritance rights and the right to be with their children. If a husband dies when he is married to a foreign wife, his family can simply strip her of everything – even her children – and have her deported. These can be families who were formerly sweet and kind to her before their son or brother died.” For foreign women, becoming a Saudi is of the utmost importance.
“Your husband can no longer threaten you with divorce and the withholding of your children once you are a Saudi,” said Umm Saad.