Some Notations By Freedom House Regarding Marriage Between Saudis And Non-Saudis

This report by Freedom House was interesting but long. I only wanted to post the relevant points concerning marriage between Saudis and non-Saudis.


A 2007 reform in Saudi citizenship laws allows non-national women who have been divorced by Saudi husbands to apply for Saudi citizenship, Saudi women nationals married to non-Saudi husbands remain unable to pass their citizenship on to their children or spouses. However, their sons, but not their daughters, may apply for citizenship at the age of 18. (1)

In 2004 a royal decree affirmed the principle of equality between men and women in all matters relating to Saudi nationality, (2) but women remain unable to pass their Saudi citizenship automatically to their noncitizen spouses and children. However, amendments to the citizenship law in October 2005 allow non-Saudis, including foreign-born husbands of Saudi women, to apply for citizenship if they have lived in the kingdom for at least 10 years and have professional qualifications deemed desirable by the interior ministry. (3) A new amendment in 2007 allows the sons of citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers to apply for Saudi citizenship once they reach age 18. Similarly situated daughters, however, may obtain citizenship only through marriage to a Saudi male citizen.

Additionally, Article 16 of the citizenship law was amended in 2007 to grant Saudi citizenship to noncitizen women married to or widowed by Saudi men on the condition that they relinquish any other citizenship. An additional amendment grants the government the discretion to revoke a foreign-born woman’s Saudi citizenship upon divorce if she has retained her original citizenship. These two amendments benefit women by letting them remain in the country to be near their children after being divorced or widowed, but they also limit their future options for residence in their home countries by requiring renunciation of their original citizenship. (4)

Saudi women are marrying foreign men on a rapidly increasing basis, with approximately 20,000 such marriages carried out in the past five years. Both men and women must obtain permission from the Interior Ministry to marry a non-national under Article 6 of the Saudi intermarriage bylaw. The ministry requires proof that the intended spouse is Muslim and has an ‘acceptable character, nationality, and religion.’ (5) Men’s applications on behalf of foreign-born wives are routinely accepted without undue delay, while the intended spouses of Saudi women must provide the ministry with medical records, a passport, a formal petition for marriage, and other supporting documents. Even then, a positive response is not guaranteed and is often based on the woman applicant’s age and her perceived ability or inability to find a Saudi husband. (6)

1. Hassna’a Mokhtar, ‘Saudi Women Demand Equal Citizenship Rights,’ Arab News (Jeddah), 7 March 2007,

2. Royal Decree no. M/54 (29 Shawwal 1425 AH). ‘Consideration of reports submitted by States Parties under article 18 of the Convention, Combined initial and second periodic reports of States Parties: Saudi Arabia’ (United Nations, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW/C/SAU/2, 07-29667 [E] 120507 230507, 29 March 2007), 16,

3. Maha Akeel, ‘New Law May Help Non-Saudi Wife,’ Arab News, 25 June 2007,

4. Sarah Abdullah, ‘Foreign-Born Women Married to Saudis Concerned Over New Citizenship Rule,’ Arab News, 18 June 2007

5. Interior Ministry, Law of Marriage of Saudi Citizen with a Non-Saudi, Number 874, 12/20/1422 H, in Arabic

6. Najah Alosaimi, ‘Saudi Women Marrying Foreigners on Rise,’ Arab News, 14 September 2007


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Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

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