The scheme, similar to green card systems applicable in other countries, aims at attracting wealthy and high-skilled expatriates.
It will allow wealthy and high-skilled foreign expats to choose between defined and renewable residency or permanent stay in return for a high, one-off fee, according to local media.
It will also allow them free movement, ability to own properties and to do business in the kingdom.
And while many expatriate workers have welcomed the news, some, such as Bangladeshi driver, Ameen Udeen, believe the decision will not have any bearing on their lives.
Speaking to Arab News, Ameen said, “This ‘Privileged Iqama’ means nothing to me as a Bangladeshi driver who makes SR 2,000 a month of which I send most back home."
Ameen also expressed doubts about the affordability of the scheme.
"I haven’t heard what the fees will be but they say that it will be very costly," he told Arab News.
"I’m sure that I will not be able to afford it. For me, this new Iqama is not meant for us drivers, house-helpers and labourers. Surely we cannot afford the benefits given our salary,” he said.
Some expatriates, however, sought further clarity on several aspects of the new scheme before applauding it wholeheartedly.
Speaking to Arab News, they asked whether the Privileged Iqama extended to all nationalities and religion, including the costs involved, while others were unclear about the difference between a privileged visa and an investor visa under the plan.
Currently over 10 million expatriates work and live in Saudi Arabia under a sponsorship system that requires them to be sponsored by a Saudi employer and be issued an exit/re-entry visa whenever they want to leave the country.
A special committee has been given 90 days to determine regulations governing the scheme, including fees for applicants, conditions and procedures, and a schedule of benefits.