New digital residency service for expats in Bahrain

Bahrain has introduced digital residency permits and passports amid a push to bolster economic growth and social reforms – and is a big bonus for expats living in the country, who currently make up around 70% of the population. Haitham bin Abdulrahman, the Bahraini Interior Ministry’s undersecretary for Nationality, Passports and Residency Affairs (NPRA), said the services are available on the government’s website, They are part of a 24-pronged NPRA agenda to promote an economic recovery plan to enhance the Gulf state’s international competitiveness. “The NPRA development plan aims to reduce routine procedures, consolidate digital transformation mechanisms and preserve the environment,” bin Abdulrahman said, according to Bahrain’s official news agency BNA. He added that the digital residency permits would “serve residents and their families as well as corporate owners.” It would slash non-essential bureaucratic measures, help re-organise employees’ tasks and reduce visits to services centres by half, believes the government. The service will also lead to the cancellation of the residency permit sticker, of which more than 1 million stickers are granted each year. For his part, CEO of the eGovernment Authority, Mohammed Al Qaed, said the two new services “mark the start of a series of advanced services in the next 12 months to transform documents and certificates into digital copies.” The permit will also be able to be renewed internationally, it has been reported, and can be printed through the ID or passport number, and will allow for entry to the country.

Golden Visas

The announcement this week follows Bahrain last month launching a new permanent residency visa to attract talent and investment as it attempts to restore the health of the economy, joining a number of other Gulf nations which have relaxed requirements for expats to stay. The Golden Residency Visa, announced by the Interior Ministry on 7 February, will be renewed indefinitely, includes the right to work in Bahrain, unlimited entry and exit, and residency for close family members. A statement said: “(The visa) is aimed at attracting investors, entrepreneurs, and highly talented individuals who can contribute to Bahrain’s ongoing success.”

Economic push

Bahrain is clearly looking internationally as it moves ahead with economic and innovation development plans. It has just signed six agreements on industry, logistics, information technology and space sciences with the U.S. during the visit of Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to Washington. The agreements included partnerships between a number of government agencies and companies in the two countries. They also included a partnership between the Gulf kingdom’s Information & eGovernment Authority and Microsoft, and an agreement with Cisco concerning the government data network infrastructure. The agreements also granted the U.S. rights over its subscribers’ information in cloud computing centres located in Bahrain.

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