How to get residency through investment i.e. self sponsorship?

I am going through this process and thought to pen down a sticky as there are lots of questions on the forum about this.  I will continue updating it as and when required.  The issue with this topic is that while the visa process is listed on the NPRA website, the details behind that are not.  Also, when you ask property agents or PROs, depending on your question, you will get different answers - so there is a general lack of clarity.

Basically there are three ways to apply for a self sponsorship visa as listed on the NPRA site:

https://www.npra.gov.bh/en/services/vis … onsorship/

1) Property purchase
2) Retired foreigner - worked for 15 years or more in the GCC
3) Foreign investor - invest 100K BHD or more in a Bahraini company

Practically speaking, if you want to live in Bahrain but don't work here (no work visa), these are your ONLY LEGAL options for staying here.  Setting up a company for visas (process on the sticky) is not advised for this as LMRA can and will shut down "shadow" companies set up for this purpose - in fact, they are doing it right now.

In this thread, I will only discuss option number 1. 

Property requirements:

As an expat, you must buy property valued at 50,000 BD or more.  Generally, properties built on reclaimed land or in touristic areas e.g. Juffair, Seef etc are eligible.  In addition, developments with villas like Riffa Views, Durrat etc, also offer freehold properties for purchase.  Rule of thumb is that if you are buying apartments, go for buildings of 10 stories or more as there are specific requirements for property for this type of visa.

You want to go for properties which have a "Title deed' or are "Title deed ready" i.e. the title deed for your property has been issued after being split from the developer's mother title deed.  Off-plan properties are not eligible for this reason. 

Purchase process:

1) Short list a property and sign a pre-sale agreement.  This is usually accompanied with token money of around 2,000 BD which is refundable in case your security clearance fails.  If you change your mind, you lose it.  If the seller changes his mind, he has to pay you back double of what you put in.  This is done on stamp paper and signed by the buyer/seller & property agent as witness.  Keep in mind that this is time bound i.e. valid for a few months - so if your security clearance does not come during that time, the seller can refund the money and walk away from the deal
2) Once this is done, the property agent or developer will submit the title deed along with your ID documents i.e. passport / CPR to the Notary in Ministry of Justice for security clearance / NOC.  This clearance is only for expat buyers
3) This usually takes 1-2 months. Sometimes it can take a LOT longer.  For some nationalities, security clearance doesn't come at all despite waiting years.  Therefore, sometimes, the developer will ask you to pay him and book the apartment under your name ( in their records only - especially for new buildings for which the first transfer to new buyer hasn't happened) before they apply for this.  DON'T do this and NEVER pay anything more than a token deposit.  Because if you don't get clearance, you are stuck with an apartment that you won't be able to transfer under your name nor get the visa.  The number that is given for security clearance, when documents are submitted, is the SAME number under which the sale agreement is done, which means, that unless there is a clearance in place, the sale agreement CANNOT be signed and without sale agreement, there is no title deed.  This then means that your property ownership is on a piece of paper given to you by the developer and depending on their credibility, you are at risk of losing everything
4) Once the clearance is done, both the buyer and seller appear in the notary office (GOSI mall or SLRB office i.e. Survey and Land registration bureau) and sign a "Sale-purchase" agreement.  The buyer pays the seller via manager's cheque at this point
5) Make sure that when you go to the notary, you go there early in the morning i.e. before 9 and that the seller brings literally every single document imaginable (and you bring your passport / CPR).  Because, they have a habit of asking for documents out of the blue and if you don't have them, they won't give you a token.  And by the time, you get the document and bring it back, the process which could have finished under 1 hour, will end up taking 5-6 hours as the queue would have overtaken you by then
6) Once the agreement is signed, you submit the original title deed and original sale agreement to SLRB registration section to get the title deed i.e. red book transferred under your name. You will pay one point seven percent of purchase value if done within 60 days from purchase date or two percent after 60 days.  Also be mindful that the sale purchase agreement validity is only 1 year which is why you must transfer before this time.  This is why I would recommend to use the notary in SLRB office as for one, it's not as crowded as GOSI mall and secondly, the next step to be done is at the registration counter right next to the notary.  This transfer of title deed (for first time issuance) can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months - there is an option to fast track by paying 51 BD which reduces this time to 2 weeks usually.  For existing title deeds, the transfer & update on the red book takes a day or two as all they do is, print on one page in the title deed / red book after the first owner pages & the property map, showing the second owner transaction
7) Take a copy of the title deed (ideally original) and follow the process for getting the EWA bill transferred in your name. It can also work with a copy of the sale agreement but sometimes they are finicky about this.  You also need to take your passport, original CPR, title deed and a stamped letter / statement from the bank which shows your IBAN number. You would need to go to one of the three customer service centers i.e. Muharraq, Zayed Town or Country Mall.  Go VERY early - they open at 7 AM.  If you go then, you will be out within the hour.  Otherwise you will waste a lot of time as there are tons of people doing change of name requests at any given time - as tenants of rental properties.  When done, they will take a security deposit which will vary depending on the meter in the property e.g. 100 BD for single phase, 300 BD for three phase and 1000 for villas.  Pay the amount and get the bond certificate.  Practically speaking, for the visa, you just need the title deed and EWA bill / bond

Now there is one huge gap / issue in this for people who are not resident in Bahrain and don't have a CPR.  This means that you won't have a bank account or IBAN to give to EWA. as the banks won't open an account without a CPR, which you can't get without a visa.  So it is a circular loop and even property agents are complaining about this.   So the options are to either go to self sponsorship section in immigration and try to get a letter / temporary cpr number with which the banks can open an account or take someone else with you who is resident in Bahrain and can give / sign on the debit undertaking with EWA to get the electricity running.

Visa process:

Now that you have the property, the next step is to apply for the visa.

You must NOT be working in Bahrain for the public or private sector.  What I have been told by the self sponsorship people, is that you apply for the visa and once approval is given, to get it stamped, you will have to cancel your existing visa.  But generally, if you are not a resident or on Saudi iqama, there is no issue in applying or stamping - no cancellation required.

The documents are listed on the NPRA site as per link above.  Point to note is that they dropped the requirement for the 15,000 BHD bank deposit which is a welcome step.  Secondly, you MUST show monthly income of 500 BD or more through investments in or out of Bahrain or work outside of Bahrain.  This cannot be from your job or work inside Bahrain.

Take all the documents and apply at the NPRA office on Exhibition road in the self sponsorship section. They will take your documents and issue a receipt after payment of application fee.  This has your application number.  Now the wait begins.   It takes roughly between 1 to 6 months to issue this type of residence permit.  Contrary to what anyone tells you, these are available for 2, 5 and 10 years.  Once you get the visa, be aware that you CANNOT work in Bahrain but can live there without issue and sponsor your dependents as well (spouse and children up to the age of 18 only). Hence, I would only recommend this option for people who are wealthy and don't need to work OR people who work in Saudi but want to live in Bahrain.

Other questions:

1) If property is in two names, do both parties or one only become eligible for the visa?  - Not many people are clear on this but each person's share must be 50K BHD, to be eligible for a visa. If the share works out to be less than 50K then no one is eligible for a visa.  A lot of people will tell you that husband and wife on a 50K property will get a visa - also a lot say no.  I visited the self sponsorship section and they say that this is possible if you have the attested marriage certificate and the husband applies for the visa.  BUT this is allowed only in the case of a husband and wife relationship; all other family relationships are subject to the same rule of 50K per person per visa
2) Can the wife sponsor the husband if the property is in her name? - Again, another question to which you will hear different answers.  But as per informed sources, the answer is no as self sponsorship requires the breadwinner to sponsor his family and not the other way round.  There may be exceptions here and there in cases where the wife is showing income independent from the husband but this needs to be confirmed
3) Is the visa guaranteed when you purchase property? - No, it is entirely at the discretion of immigration just like other visas.  The chances for refusal are low if you have a clean record and have gone through the clearance at purchase time but it can happen
4) Is this permanent residency? - Yes and No.  The visas are for lifetime IF you continue to hold the property but must be renewed 6 months before expiry at 2, 5 or 10 year periods.  Secondly, you can only sponsor your children until they are 18.  After which they need to get their own visas through work or studies or other means
5) Can you rent the property? - Yes, you can but try to keep the EWA bill under your name
6) What happens if I sell the property?  - The visa will be cancelled.  You may at most get an extension of your stay in Bahrain by 3 months when that happens
7) Does buying a property lead to citizenship? - No it doesn't.  You must fulfill all the other requirements i.e. length of stay etc.  HOWEVER, be aware that they recently changed the rules and now for all citizenship applications, you MUST have property under your name.  So this will obviously help if you are otherwise eligible to get the passport
8) What happens if I die?  - This is a big topic but generally speaking, if you are a Non-Muslim and have a will, the provisions of your will are applied by the Bahrain courts for succession certificate.  This certificate will allow the beneficiary to transfer the property under their name and apply for a visa in turn.  If you are Muslim, then Shariah law will be applied - even if you have a will, while they will consider it, it cannot be in contravention to Shariah law
9) What about power of attorney, can it help?  - A POA given by you to someone allowing them to sell or dispose off the property is only valid while you are alive.  On your death, the POA is invalid.  Don't attempt to use in that case as you could be subject to legal proceedings for fraud

Edit: 23rd July 2019
  I have gotten lots of questions through private message asking for advice on whether to invest in Bahrain vs. UAE or Saudi.  Based on the general confused tone of the messages :), I thought I should clarify some points.

In Bahrain, for a 10 year visa, you invest 50K BHD with proof of monthly income of 500 BHD.  In UAE, you need 100K BHD with proof of monthly income of 1000 BHD for a 2 year visa!!!.  The UAE 10 year visa is for AED 10 mn!!!.

In USD terms, Bahrain gives you a 10 year visa for $132K investment whereas UAE gives it to you for close to $2.7 million!!!.  At that price point, you can buy a passport for an EU country e.g. Malta or Cyprus.  What you have to understand is that price point is set for a very unique category of people i.e. people who have been in UAE their entire lives and have big business set ups there.  For them, it is very convenient as it safeguards their investment in the country which is worth a lot more than this price point.  See the news about the people who got permanent residency in the UAE - and you will get an idea as to what type of people this program is targeted towards.   Saudi is similar with a SAR 800K one-off payment (not investment) to get an indefinite term visa - targeted towards big business owners in the country who will benefit a lot from this especially by having businesses and property in their names vs. their sponsors.

So, simply, the investment in Bahrain, if you want a 10 year visa and are a normal individual investor, is BY FAR the most cost effective of any other GCC country program out there.  If money is no issue, then yeah, you can always go for UAE or Saudi.

Thanks for detailed post Xtang,  :one

Thanks for this useful info.
I am going to apply for the self sponsorship visa in the next few months.
I would like to ask a couple of things maybe are useful for everybody.

Firstly, when i apply for the self sponsorship visa at NPRA do they keep my passport until the issue of the residence permit? Can i leave Bahrain and come back once the the permit has been issued?

Secondly, once issued there is any requirement to keep it valid? For example stay in Bahrain some months etc.

Lastly, CPR card is issued to self sponsorship resident or to workers only since thay cannot work.

1) No they don't keep passport. They will send you an email when the approval has been received.  You can go to Bahrain then to get it stamped
2) None except don't sell the property
3) CPR has nothing to do with being able to work or not.  It is an identity card issued to all legal residents of Bahrain i.e. have residence permit.  You can get CPR

Thanks for the info XTang.

Just to clarify another point, the Certificate of good conduct deed is still a requirement or has been dropped as the deposit of 15000 bhd?

No certificate of good conduct is required.   Deposit only has been dropped.

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