For years, the expats who flocked to the Gulf could only dream of Saudi or Emirati citizenship, although they comprised as much as 33% of the population in KSA and approximately 85% in UAE. Neither the construction workers from Egypt or the maids from Philippines or the engineers Iraq or doctors from India or the UK could get it, even if they lived in Gulf countries for decades and built their homes there. Nowadays, when the global and the local demand for talent is high, the sheikhdoms in the Gulf are changing their attitude while fiercely competing with each other.

Desperately seeking talents:
This week Saudi Arabia announced that it will grant citizenship to a group of “outstanding” expatriates including doctors, clerics and academics, becoming the second Gulf Arab state to introduce a formal naturalization program for foreigners with exceptional skills this year. Earlier this year the UAE decided to grant citizenship to “talented” foreign residents that will “add value to the country”. Currently, the opportunity is very limited, and, according to the Saudi media, there is no open application process and the citizenship may be awarded by the state to individuals who will “meet the criteria”. In UAE the professionals can only be nominated by Emirati royals or officials as well. Experts say that for now only a few foreign professionals will be able to exploit this chance, however it’s quite certain that the need for foreign talents will keep growing and the citizenship card will serve as an extraordinary perk for job seekers “These Gulf states are aiming at the technologies of tomorrow. They worry about the US pullout from the region, about Iranian attempt to spread its hegemony, and they know that they need the super-advanced technological edge. The Emiratis were leading so far, and now Saudi Arabia is stepping ahead as well. They are buying entire systems of knowledge along with the people who operate them, and there are many opportunities for the professionals in Jeddah, Riyad and others. The speedy technological development is highly prioritized by the leaders – the MBZ and the MBS” says professor Uzi Rabi, the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University speaking to the Media Line. In fact, Kuwait can be considered as a pioneer who opened up to the foreigners in 70-80-s, but during the last three decades had undone much of its previous success in attracting talent from abroad. Currently if a Kuwaiti women is married to a foreigner, even their children are not entitled to Kuwaiti citizenship. Both UAE and KSA also encourage “emiratization” and “saudisation” of the work market in their respective countries in order to combat unemployment and to develop home-grown talents. READ MORE

The Great Gulf Citizenship Competition -analysis

Josh Toupos

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