Manama: Saudi Arabia has reportedly halved the permissible age difference between a Saudi man and a foreign wife and lowered by five years the maximum age for Saudi women who want to marry foreigners.
Under amendments to the 17-point list issued in 2016 to govern the marriages of Saudis with foreigners, the age difference between the spouses must not exceed 15 years, down from 30 years in the previous requirement.
The Saudi woman must not be over 50 if she wants to take a foreign husband whereas in the initial list, the maximum age was 55, Saudi daily Okaz reported on Sunday.
According to the justice ministry, around 700,000 Saudi women are married to foreigners, representing 10 per cent of all married Saudi women. No figure was given about the number of Saudi men married to foreigners.
However, Tawfiq Al Swaylem, the head of Awasir, the Charitable Society for the Welfare of Saudi Families Abroad, said that marriages with non-Saudi women had become a common phenomenon in the past 20 years.
The high rate of dowry, marriage expenses, limited incomes and a lesser sense of family stability among young people are among the major reasons for Saudis to take foreign wives, he said.
Saudi daily Al Watan reported that 64 per cent of foreign wives of Saudis are from Asian countries, 19 per cent are Africans, 4.3 per cent from the Arabian Gulf countries and four per cent are from Western countries.
For women, the proliferation of the media and social media has made a huge difference in their thinking about marriages and husbands.
Saudi nationals need special permissions to take non-Saudi spouses, but the growing phenomenon led the authorities to issue a set of 17 requirements for international marriages to help ensure there are no abuses or exploitation in any form.
Under the amended rules, a Saudi man has to be between 40 and 65 years old to be able to marry a non-Saudi woman, and a Saudi woman has to be between 30 and 50 if she wants to take a non-Saudi husband.
A Saudi man has to make at least 3,000 Saudi riyals (Dh2,935) a month and to have an adequate house or apartment to have his mixed marriage approved.
The woman whom he wants to marry must be at least 25 years old and the age difference between the two spouses in all cases must not exceed 15 years.
If the applicant is divorced, at least two years should have passed following the separation before he applies to marry a foreigner, and in case he is married with a Saudi woman and wants a foreigner as a second wife, he must produce a certificate from a public or private hospital stating that his first wife is unable to assume all her marital responsibilities or is infertile. The certificate must be endorsed by the ministry of health.
The applicant must also sign a document stating that the approval of the marriage does not necessarily mean that his foreign wife would be granted the Saudi citizenship.
A non-Saudi cannot take a Saudi wife if he is already married or if he had married a Saudi woman. He must also present a certificate showing that he has no criminal record in his country of origin and in Saudi Arabia.
He must also present evidence he is not suffering from any infectious or genetic diseases. He must not have been a member of the military in a foreign country, must not be on the lists of those banned from entering Saudi Arabia, must have a monthly salary of at least 5,000 Saudi Riyals (Dh4,900) and a valid residence permit and must possess an appropriate family residence.
He must not be stateless and must have a specific nationality that he can prove with a passport from his country with at least another 12 months of validity. He must also clear all security checks to be carried out by the competent authorities in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi woman has to sign a statement that her marriage with a foreigner did not necessarily mean he or their children would have the right to be granted the Saudi citizenship.
The new regulations call for the establishment of a committee tasked with looking into all applications by Saudis to take foreign spouses.
The members should give their opinion on the request within one month of receiving the application.
Around one-third of the 32 million people living in Saudi Arabia are foreigners, working mainly in the construction and service sectors.