Riyadh skyline, Saudi Arabia.
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Saudi Arabia granted 73 foreigners “premium” residency under a new program to attract overseas investment by enabling selected people to buy property and do business without a Saudi sponsor.

The kingdom received thousands of applications after offering permanent residency for 800,000 riyals (Dhs783,482) or a one-year renewable permit for 100,000 riyals (Dhs 97,935). The first batch of recipients come from 19 countries and include investors, doctors, engineers and financiers, according to a statement Monday from the government’s Premium Residency Center. It didn’t detail how many were granted permanent residency.

The program, approved in May, is the latest sign of how the kingdom is rethinking the role for foreigners as it works to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil.

The “privileged iqama” system, offered for specific fees, ensures eligible residents a set of advantages including rights to recruit workers, own property and means of transportation as well as leaving and return to the kingdom without the need for permission from a sponsor as is the case now.

Holders of this type of residency will also have a family status and be entitled to use the processing service designated for Saudis at airports.

The new system has two categories: permanent and temporary.

Eligible residents should have a valid passport, adequate financial resources and not be less than 21 years in age, Saudi television Al Arabiya reported.

In 2016, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman said in an interview with Bloomberg that the kingdom is planning to devise a Green Card-style residence system for expatriates that will inject billions of dollars into the national economy.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is seeking to diversify its economy.