Jordan lures foreign investors with citizenship offer

A Jordanian vendor displays traditional Arabian headdresses while waiting for customers at his shop in Amman

AMMAN - About two dozen applications from foreign investors have been submitted to a Jordanian programme that would grant them citizenship or permanent residency. The move won raves from investors but received objections from members of parliament who want Israeli investors excluded.
During a February 19 news conference, Jordanian State Minister for Media Affairs and Government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani announced the programme, which allows several ways for investors to be granted citizenship.
The options include “a zero-interest, 5-year, $1.5 million deposit at the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ),” “buying treasury bonds valued at $1.5 million at an interest rate to be decided by CBJ and for a period not less than ten years,” “buying securities, at $1.5 million, from an active investment portfolio, while investors can invest $1 million in SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) for five years,” or a “$2 million investment in any location in the country or $1.5 million investment in any governorate other than Amman.”
Businesses that foreigners invest in must create at least 20 jobs and stay in operation for at least three years. To be eligible for permanent residency, foreign investors must invest in a property worth no less than $282,000 for ten years without selling it.
An investor’s spouse, single, widowed or divorced dependent daughters, children under the age of 18 years and parents who are dependent are also eligible.
Amman Chamber of Commerce President Issa Murad said there are many foreign investors who are seeking Jordanian citizenship and to settle in the kingdom due to its stability and security at a time when turmoil is inflicting neighbouring countries.
“Encouraging investors to come and stay in Jordan will have a positive effect on all sectors such as industrial and real-estate and will double the investment projects,” Murad said.
Investors would have to go through a security clearance and financial adequacy check. If they are found to have violated any conditions, their citizenship would be revoked and their residency status cancelled.
Approximately 9.5 million people — 6.6 million Jordanians — live in Jordan. About 1.23 million are Syrians, including refugees, followed by Egyptians, totalling 636,270. There are 634,182 Palestinians who do not have Jordanian national ID numbers.
Many Iraqi investors consider Jordan to be the perfect location for investments because of its security, geographic proximity and infrastructure. The Iraqi Business Council in Jordan said there is approximately $17 billion in Iraqi investments in Jordan covering tourism, banking, agriculture and industry.
“It is a good tool to increase investment in the kingdom. We saw several investors leaving Jordan due to taxes but with this move I think will be a great opportunity for many who have already established their businesses here away from their war-torn countries,” said Jamal Tabaza, a Jordanian trader.
“This decision will solve many issues facing investors such as residency, freedom of movement and security issues, which will lead to making investment easier and will serve as an open door for more investments.”
Syrian Mohammed Ashami, 49, who opened a pastry shop in Amman, said the investment-citizenship decision comes at the perfect time.
“I came here in 2015 with my family and opened a shop, which is doing fine despite the fierce competition but we need to face any challenges as we don’t have any other option,” he said. “Jordan is very secure and we like it here and I think this decision in which investors are allowed to have the citizenship is a positive one.”
Akram Karmool, head of the National Association for Investor Protection, has long been calling for a better environment for investment in the kingdom.
“The latest decision by the government will strengthen the investment environment in the kingdom and attract more foreign investors, which will have a positive impact on all sectors,” he was quoted by local media as saying.
MP Saleh Armouti said he felt the decision placed “Jordanian citizenship for sale” and was a “crime.”
MP Ahmed Ruqub raised an objection, which was signed by about 16 MPs, requesting that the government exclude Israelis from the plan.
Roufan Nahhas
, based in Jordan, has been covering cultural issues in Jordan for more than two decades.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.