Instant visas for SMEs looking to set up in KSA
Priya Wadhwa
10x Industry

Instant visas for SMEs looking to set up in KSA

Could Saudi Arabia become the next GCC business hub?

One of the biggest hurdles for any SME or entrepreneur when setting up in a new country is the paperwork, especially for getting a licence to operate. Governments across the world understand this and take steps to ease doing business in the country, which also attracts foreign businesses to set up and contribute to the nation’s GDP.

This year, Saudi Arabia opened its borders and eased rules to attract more visitors to the country. Their visa-on-arrival and online visa application system went live on 27 September, and has seen over 50,000 people visit the country.

Saudi Arabia, the GCC’s largest economy and home to the world’s most profitable company, has now announced plans to launch an instant work visa service for SMEs and entrepreneurs looking to set up in the country, starting as early as next month.

“[The work visa service] will enable young Saudis to launch start-up projects, open small businesses, boost economic growth and accelerate business expansion plans, which will have a positive impact on national development.”
Ahmed Al-Rajhi, the minister of labour and social development

The ministry revealed that the decision came after extensive study into the needs of SME entrepreneurs, and the work visa has been specially designed to support new small businesses. In addition, the service will be able through Saudi’s Qiwa platform that is specifically designed for SMEs. The initiative is also expected to make it easier for Saudis to launch their start-ups.

The announcement, which was made during a meeting with entrepreneurs from Hail Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also revealed that business owners will be able to benefit from a set of integrated tools for SMEs. It has been reported that after an initial grace period, the ministry will introduce a framework for nationalising the workforce of these businesses under Nitaqat, the Saudi nationalisation scheme.

SMEs are the backbone of most economies. With Saudi Vision 2030 looking to diversify its economic dependence away from oil, it has been strengthening its tourism and economic sector through initiatives that attract people and businesses to the Kingdom. The Vision 2030 also has plans to increase the contribution of SMEs to the nation’s GDP from 20% recorded in 2016 (when the vision was launched) to 35% by 2030.

While more details about the new visa service system are yet to be announced, it is a good indication for businesses, especially SMEs and startups in the Middle East, who are looking to expand to Saudi Arabia and benefit from the large economy.