Despite being subject to a number of socio-cultural restrictions, Saudi women, just like Saudi men, are allowed to marry foreigners.
However, even that experience is not free from hurdles.
As per recent stats released by the gulf kingdom’s Ministry of Justice, the number of marriage contracts of Saudi men to non-Saudi women last year reached 3,596, while marital unions between Saudi women to non-Saudi males reached 3,352.
And while the numbers for this trend are constantly on the rise, due to more exposure to foreign cultures, both genders face tough regulations. But it’s slightly more difficult for Saudi women.
Under Saudi Arabia’s rules, a Saudi man has to be at least 30 years old to marry a foreign national. In 2014, the Saudi government placed additional restrictions, prohibiting Saudi men from marrying expatriate women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad and Myanmar.
The minimum age for a Saudi woman to marry a non-Saudi is 25 years old. And while there aren’t specific non-Saudi nationalities they have been ordered not to marry, like in the case of Saudi men, there are other problems that follow when the kingdom’s women decide to settle down with a foreigner.
For instance, visa renewal for female Saudi nationals can be an exhausting task. “I can’t count the number of times I traveled from Saudi Arabia to Dubai, to renew my husband’s visa, under the title husband to Saudi citizen and the father of a Saudi citizen,” a woman named Rawan told Arab News in an interview last year.
She also said the process of finding a kindergarten for her child was made difficult due to her marriage to a foreigner — unlike Saudi children born to a Saudi father and a foreign mother.
“Before my father died, he was my guardian,” Rawan lamented. “And now I am married but my brother is my guardian. He is the one who finalizes my travel permit procedures, not my husband. After I got married, I received a marriage contract with the following statement written on the periphery, ‘It is essential to go to Civil Status Department to transfer her name to the husband’s register.’ When I went to Civil Status Department, they told me I need to bring my husband’s residency visa number to be able to transfer my name to my husband’s register,” she said.
Recent changes implemented by King Salman may have made life relatively easier for local married women but the male guardianship system is still making life complicated for thousands of other Saudi women, especially those who find love elsewhere than their own country.