Saudi Arabia cuts residence to match expat health cover

Saudi Airplane at Dulles airportSaudi Arabia has limited residence visas for expat workers in the private sector to one year, according to Emirates 24/7. The shortened residence period is now in line with the length of many international health insurance plans. Previously Saudi Arabia had issued residence visas for two years. The decision followed passage of a law requiring Saudi firms to issue expat workers health insurance in order for them to qualify for a residence visa.

According to Credit Suisse’s recent Emerging Consumer Survey, Saudis spend very little on healthcare (an average 6% of total income in 2010). “Public provision is a factor,” noted the report, “but strong growth in the over-65s population (estimated at 21% between 2010 and 2015 according to the US Census Bureau) puts the onus on the private sector to fund rising healthcare requirements.”

The struggle to balance traditional public health entitlements with rising costs is a key theme worldwide, but particularly in oil-rich Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Like the Saudis, the authorities in the Emirate have also tightened up health-related immigration requirements.