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Summary

Foreigners and their children who violate Saudi Arabia’s Residency Law by staying in the country illegally do not have a legal path to obtain a permanent residence permit or citizenship. Children of foreigners who reside illegally in the Kingdom as well as their parents must be detained and deported from Saudi Arabia for violating the Residency Law. Saudi Arabia is neither a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, nor other international conventions protecting stateless persons.

I. Permanent Residency

Foreigners and their children who violate the Residency Law by staying in Saudi Arabia illegally do not have a legal path to obtain permanent residence permits.  The Residency Law[1] in Saudi Arabia provides only a temporary residency permit for the purpose of working in Saudi Arabia.  Such a residency permit is renewable annually,[2] and includes the permit-holder’s spouse and minor children (under eighteen years of age).[3]  Children who are eighteen and older are required to obtain an independent residency permit.[4]

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II. Citizenship Requirements 

The children of foreigners residing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia illegally have no right to apply for Saudi nationality.  These children do not meet the requirements created by the Saudi Citizenship Law of 1954 and its 1985 amendments.[5]  Article 9 of the Citizenship Law requires that a foreigner may only apply for Saudi citizenship if he/she

  • has reached the age of majority at the time of submitting the application;
  • has been a legal resident of the Kingdom for ten consecutive years;
  • is of sound mind;
  • has a record of good conduct (i.e., was never convicted of a criminal offense or imprisoned for more than six months for committing a crime against public morals);
  • works legally in a profession needed by the country; and
  • has a good command of the Arabic language, including speaking, reading, and writing.

Additionally, the applicant must submit with his/her application a Saudi residency permit and his/her passport.[6]

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III. Deportation of Violators

The children of foreigners who reside in the Kingdom illegally as well as their parents must be detained and deported from Saudi Arabia for violating the Residency Law.  The Law authorizes the deportation of a foreigner whose visa has expired and whose residency permit has not been granted for any reason.  It states that each foreigner who holds an expired visa issued by consular or diplomatic authorities of His Majesty’s Government abroad and who does not meet the required conditions for being granted a residency permit must leave the country voluntarily within a period not to exceed one week.  If the individual fails or refuses to leave, the Public Security Department must deport the individual at his or her own expense.[7]  Likewise, the Law states that a foreigner who loses his/her work permit may be detained and must leave the Kingdom within one week.[8]  Finally, any foreigner who enters Saudi Arabia illegally must be imprisoned until he/she is deported from the country.[9]

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IV. Legal Status of Refugees

Saudi Arabia is neither a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, nor the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not have a domestic law governing asylum or refugees.

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Prepared by George Sadek
Senior Legal Research Analyst
September 2017


[1] Residency Law, Law No. 17-2/25/1337, as amended, issued 4 May 1952, http://www.gdp.gov.sa/sites/pgd/ar-SA/TravelDocuments/IqamSystem/Pages/default.aspx(in Arabic), archived at https://perma.cc/QJ8G-QBJJ.

[2] Id. art. 37.

[3] Id. art. 41.

[4] Id. art. 42.

[6] Id. art. 9.

[7] Residency Law art. 27.

[8] Id. art. 11, para. 2.

[9] Id. art. 50.