Laws banning foreigners from carrying guns in Saudi Arabia are to be relaxed after several bloody attacks on expatriates in the desert kingdom.
The interior minister said that expatriates fearing for their safety could seek a weapons permit.
Western diplomats are due to meet Saudi officials on Sunday to discuss ways of improving security for foreigners.
The authorities have announced the first surrender of a wanted militant under an amnesty announced this week.
Saaban al-Shihri surrendered hours after the amnesty for lower-ranking militants was revealed on Wednesday, police said.
The BBC’s Middle East analyst, Roger Hardy, says that hardened militants – thought to have links to al-Qaeda – are likely to continue their campaign of attacks against Westerners and against a government they consider illegitimate.
Saudi officials insist they are doing everything they can to protect outsiders from the latest wave of violence which has been widely blamed on Islamic militants.
An American employee of a defence company was kidnapped and beheaded last Friday, weeks after a militant raid on a luxury compound housing foreign workers in the town of Khobar left 22 people dead.
Until now, all non-citizens – including private security guards – have been banned from bearing arms.
The Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, said foreigners would now be allowed to apply for a permit to carry a gun in the manner of Saudi citizens.
“In principle, a Saudi has the right to carry a weapon, if he has a permit,” he said.
“Likewise a foreign resident, if he felt in danger, he could get a permit to carry a weapon.”
Our Middle East analyst says the kingdom’s eight to nine million foreign workers – who account for a third of the country’s population – are becoming increasingly jittery.
Many have moved their families out of the country, either sending them home or relocating them to the neighbouring state of Bahrain.
Defence corporation BAE Systems has offered its foreign employees in Saudi Arabia more money as an inducement to remain in the country despite the worsening security situation.
Claims by militants that they were assisted by Saudi security officers have added to the tension.
The US embassy said on Thursday that an American citizen had recently ignored a police checkpoint and warned its other citizens not to do so.