Bahrain has become the second Gulf country to open its doors to permanent residency for foreigners, after the UAE.
The fee for those who meet the eligibility requirements for a Golden Residency Visa will be 300 dinars (approximately $800), and residency rights will be immediate, Sheikh Hisham bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa, the undersecretary for nationality, passports and residence affairs in the Interior Ministry, announced on Monday.
Holders of a Golden Residency Visa must stay in Bahrain for at least 90 days a year for it to remain valid and it applies to four categories of people, according to the announcement.
“Golden residency will be for the talented, or for people who own a home worth 200,000 Bahraini dinars, equal to [approximately $530,000], or who have a pension of 4,000 dinars per month, equal to approximately [$10,600],” Sheikh Hisham said.
“Eligibility also includes those who work in Bahrain and have a monthly income of 2,000 dinars or more [equivalent to approximately $5,300],” he added.
Those with golden residency can work in Bahrain and bring in family members including a father or mother, wife and children, as well as grandchildren.
“Golden residency will be available to all nationalities in the world without exception,” the undersecretary said.
A Bahraini government official with knowledge of the new visa told The Media Line that procedures for obtaining a visa will continue to be eased in the coming months.
According to the official: “There is currently a 10-year residency for anyone who owns a property worth more than 70,000 dinars [$185,000], and it is still available, but it does not provide the same privileges that golden residency does.”
There also is a five-year residency visa for investors, open to all nationalities, “and they only have to carry out the usual routine procedures, in addition to anti-money laundering procedures, and prove the source of the funds in their possession, as Bahrain is committed to anti-money laundering procedures,” the official added.
“Bahrain, while facilitating residency procedures and opening the door for investment, will not be a haven for money laundering, terrorism financing or any suspicious activities,” he emphasized.
The application for the visa is available online, “and the applicant will receive immediate approval as soon as the data is confirmed regarding acquisition of the housing unit,” he added.
Nasser Ali, a Bahraini real estate expert, told The Media Line that opening up to more permanent residency will increase real estate trading in Bahrain.
“Real estate transactions in Bahrain will increase by no less than 25% during the coming period, after opening the door for golden residency and facilitating procedures for housing in Bahrain,” Ali said.
“Real estate trading in Bahrain amounted to more than 1 billion dinars [$2.63 billion] during 2021. Real estate is mostly residential, and the upcoming real estate projects in the Bahraini market will give preference to this,” he added.
He says there is a demand among those in other Gulf countries for real estate in Bahrain. “Many Gulf citizens buy real estate in Bahrain for leisure and recreation or even as their primary residence, and now this is more available to all nationalities around the world,” he said.
“The nature of the real estate offered will now change,” Ali said, explaining that it will be “more luxurious” and will include more freehold developments, in which a person has outright permanent ownership of both the housing unit and the property on which it is built.
“Several years ago, a decision was made to determine the areas in which non-Bahrainis can own property, and they must be freehold areas. Now, with the new developments that Bahrain will launch soon, which will increase the available areas by more than 60%, there will be more places for freehold ownership,” he said.
“Bahrain also has many laws that guarantee the rights of real estate buyers in the event that a property is purchased from developers before the completion of the housing unit, so-called off-plan purchase, and these are important laws,” Ali added.
Mohammed Baker, a Bahraini economist, predicted that “Bahrain will attract at least 1,000 [golden residency] applications during the first period, and this will certainly increase with the launch of more real estate projects.”
He called the move to offer the new visas a “very important” step that “aims to attract additional investment worth at least $1 billion during the first year.”
"This supports plans to diversify the Bahraini economy, and increase investments, a step many have been waiting for a long time," the economist said.
He said that foreigners already residing in the Gulf will be the largest market. “They know Bahrain well and how easy life is in it. I have met many visitors, foreigners residing in the Gulf, and they very much want to live in Bahrain,” Baker said.
Ahmed Khaled, also a Bahraini economist, told The Media Line that Bahrain’s government “is heading in the right direction to attract more investments. The sums that will be injected into the Bahraini market during the coming period will greatly revive it and contribute to recovery from the corona pandemic. This is a good thing for everyone.”
“There is no competition with the rest of the Gulf markets, but rather integration. Whoever obtains golden residency in Bahrain will certainly be able to visit the Gulf countries as well during the coming period ... This market will recover greatly,” Khaled said.
He added that the cost of living in Bahrain, at 30%, is lower than in the rest of the Gulf countries, making it more attractive to foreign residents. In addition, the value-added tax, which was raised on January 1, is still only at 10%. “It has not significantly affected the purchasing power and the prices are still good,” he said.
“The costs of establishing and running businesses in Bahrain are approximately 50% less than the rest of the region, especially the Gulf, whether the costs of rents, salaries of workers and employees, or government fees for setting up businesses or others, which gives Bahrain an advantage over the rest of the region,” Khaled concluded.