Saturday, August 23, 2008


Obtaining Residence

To live permanently in Kuwait, expatriates other than GCC citizens must have iqama, ie a residence permit. A person discovered without a valid iqama which are known colloquially by the article numbers in the immigration regulations. The three main types are work visas, domestic and dependent visas, all of which require a sponsor. An expatriate may however sponsor his own residence, with or without being permitted to work, provided he has lived in Kuwait for many years and has substantial financial means.

Work Permits, No-objection Certs & Work Visas

Work Visas are iqamas granted under articles 17 (For Public Sector Employees) and 18 (Private Sector Employees) of the immigration regulations. To obtain residence on a work visa an offer of employment must first be accepted. The Kuwaiti sponsoring employer then applies for a work permit from the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour, for which the sponsor needs a copy of the employee's passport showing sector employer must then ob-tain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the General Admin-istration of Criminal Investigation at the Ministry of interior which he dose by submitting the employee's personal details.
If the employee is living in a country that has a Kuwaiti Embassy the employer will send him a copy of the work permit which he must take to the Embassy. Which will also have received a copy through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for endorsement. The employee must then apply for an entry visa for Kuwait, using the endorsed work permit. Those sponsored by private sector companies will require their NOCs and a copy of the employer's authorised signatory as registered for business purposes. An applicant is also required to provide a medical certificate, obtained from a clinic recognised by the Kuwait Embassy, stating that their general state of health is good and that they are free of specific epidemic diseases. A good conduct certificate, issued by the police in the last place of residence, may be required for some nationalities.
If the employee is living in a country that has no Kuwait Embassy then the sponsore will submit the work permit and NOC to the Ministry of the Interior to obtain the entry visa. If an employee is on a visit visa to Kuwait when he accept employment, then, once the work permit and NOC are ready, he must leave Kuwait and return on the entry visa the sponsor obtain for him. For Westerners, a short round trip to Bahrain by air for the day may suffice.
However most nationalities are obliged to return to their native country in order to undergo medical tests and have them endorsed at the Kuwait Embassy there.
Once he has entered Kuwait, the Employee must undergo local medical tests and obtain a fingerprint certificate before he can process his residence visa.

Medical Tests

The medical tests are taken at the ports & Borders Health Division, Gamal Abdul Nasser Street, in Shuwaikh, just west of KISR but befor the chest Hospital is reached. Requirements are passport, copy of NOC, a single photography and KD 10 revenue stamp. Revenue Stamps are available from post office, or from private traders out-side the test area who charge a small premium over the nominal value of the stamp.
To take the test, a pink card must be obtained from a reception window. There is no system of appointments and most people must queue for the various procedures. These include a chest x-ray and blood tests for serious infectious diseases, such as HIV(AIDS), TB, hepatitis B&C, typhoid and malaria. A meningitis vaccination is also given. It takes about a week for the results, which are givien in the form Ministry of public Health, to come through. Persons found to be infected with epidemic diseases are deported.

Fingerprinting & Security Clearance

There are four fingerprinting departments where expatriates can have their fingerprints department and obtain security clearance. These are located in Khaed Ibn Al waleed Street, Sharq. Near the toy Shops (for persons living in the city governments) Al Gazali Street, Farwaniya (for persons living in Hawalli and Farwaniya governments), Ahmadi and Jahra.
To have fingerprints registered, an employee's passport, copy passport, four photographs and a letter from the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour are required. An application form must be completed in Arabic and there are freelance typists around who will do so for a small fee. The fingerprinting process is a bit messy, but plenty of tissues and cleaning fluid are provided. It takes about a week for the fingerprints to be proceessed and the security clearence certificate to be issued by the Criminal Evidence Depatment of the Ministry of the Inetrior. The certificate is picked up from the same place as the fingerprints were taken.

Application for Residence

The actul application for an iqama is made a the Immigrtion and passport Department of the ministry of the Interior in Shuwaikh (the Jawazaat or passport office) just off the Airport road near the Q8 compound between the 3rd and 4th Ring Roads. First time applicants for residence must submit the following documents in the form of both originals and photocopies:
*declaration on the prescribed *work permit * NOC *passport * security clearence(fingerprint)certificate
Four passport size photography are also required. A maximaum of five years residence may be granted. The fee is KD 10 per year. If the sponsor is a government organisation then, by law, the employee must bear the cost. If the sponsor is a private company the cost is a matter of negotiation between the sponsors and the employee.

Renewing Residence

After the intial residence has expired it can be renewed, provided the expatriate intends to continue under the same sponsor. Renewal is a simple matter. Applications are made at the Jawazaat in Shuwaikh and the process should be started at least two weeks before the current residence expires. The new residence runs from the date it is stamped in the passport.
Medical test are not required on renewal. However the employee’s work permit must first be renewed with the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour. The applicatin for renewal must be supported by:
· The employee’s work permit
· The renewed work permit
· A copy of the sponsor’s signature as required for business purposes
Normally the sponsors or his official mandoub will attend at the jawazat to renew the employee’s iqama. Where the employee does so himself, he must a letter from his sponsors authorising him to do so.

Dependent Visas

Once he has obtained his own residency, a male employee may sponsor his wife and children to live with him in Kuwait, provided he is earning at least KD 450 a month where he is on a 17-visa or at least KD 650 where he is on an 18-visa. If both sponsors are working in Kuwait, they are usually allowed to sponsor their children provided their combined salaries exceed about KD 350 per month.
A working wife cannot sponsor her husband as a dependent. Sons over 21 years cannot be sponsored as dependents, though adult daughters and parents may. Dependent family member may not work without transferring to a work visa under Kuwaiti sponsorship.
An entry visa for a dependent is obtained at the jawazaat in Shuwaikh. An application form must be typed in Arabic and bilingual typists are available for as charge of 500 files. The following supporting documents are required:
· Sponsor’s salary certificate
· Copy of the sponsor’s civil ID
· Copy of the dependent’s passport
· Authenticated marriage certificate or child’s birth certificate
The marriage certificate and child’s birth certificate must be authenticated by the sponsor’s embassy and certificate by the Kuwait Ministry of foreign Affairs.
Once they have entered the country the formalities for a dependent’s iqama are similar to those for a work visa. The dependent must be medically tested and fingerprinted. The photographs and documents required are the same as shown above except for the work permit. The sponsor’s declaration is an undertaking by the family supporter that he will maintain the dependent.
For expatriate sponsors working in the private sector, the first year dependent residence fees for a wife and the first two children are KD 100 a person and KD 200 each for subsequent children. For public sector employees, first year fees for a wife and the first two children are KD 10 a person and KD 100 each for subsequent children. Renewal fees in all cases are KD 10 a year per person. However the fee for a dependent parent is KD 200 a year.

New Born Child

When a baby is born to expatriate in Kuwait, the parents must obtain a dependent iqama for the child. There is no minimum salary requirement and the father of child born in Kuwait can sponsor his infant’s residence irrespective of his salary level.
But first the parents must obtain an official birth certificate for the child. To do so, a notification of the birth, obtained from the hospital where the child was born, The hospital will provide the address. Additional documents required to obtain the birth certificate include:
Application form duly completed, photocopies of parent’s passport civil Ids, and authenticated marriage contract. When the notification is being submitted at the registry, the parents will be asked to write down the proposed first name of the child. For expatriates who do not speak Arabic the name will be written phonetically in Arabic. The birth certificates are usually ready to be picked up at the registry after about a week. The fee is KD 10.
To obtain residence the baby’s name must first be added to the father’s passport or a separate passport must be obtained for the infant. Many expatriates prefer to obtain a separate passport for the child as, in many cases, to have the child added, the parent’s passport must be changed and the parent must then go though the formalities of having his residence transferred to the new passport. In addition, a child with his own passport can travel without his parent should this ever be necessary. To obtain a passport for the child, different rules, but most non-Arabic embassies require a certified translation of the child’s birth certificate while some require the certificate to be authenticated by the Ministry of foreign Affairs in Kuwait.
Once a passport has been procured or the child has been added to its father’s passport, the procedures for obtaining the child’s residence are the same as for any dependent. An infant born in Kuwait however is not required to undergo include the originals and copies of the father’s passport, the civil IDs of both parents, marriage certificate, work permit and letter of employment indicating salary. The application for the birth to avoid fine of KD 200.
Where the father works in the private sector, the administrative fee for the new-born intant is KD 100 in the first year for the first and second child, and KD 200 in the first year for the third and subsequent children, But if the father works in the public sector, there is no charge in the first year for the first three children, while the charge for each subse-quent child is KD 100 in the first year. The actual residence fee is KD 10 a year.
Parents on domestic servant visas cannot keep their child in Kuwait and must obtain an exit visa for the infant from the Ministry of the Interior, for which the following documents are required: passports and civil IDs of both parent’s, marriage contact translated into Arabic, and the child’s birth certificate. There is no fee for the exit visa but, to avoid a fine of KD 200, formalities must be completed within 60 days of the birth.

Domestic Servant’s Visa

Resident expatriates may sponsor one full-time servant to care for their household. A male expatiates must have his wife must be living with him if the servant is a female. The age limits for maids are 20 to 50 years. Family members may not be sponsored on servant’s visas.
The sponsor is not required to have a minimum salary and, provided both husband and wife are working and the family includes children, expatriate families are usually allowed to bring in a maid. The decision rests with immigration official who take into account the size of the family’s home, its monthly income and whether the family really need a maid.
An entry visa for a servant is obtained from the jawazaat in Shuwaikh. An application form must be typed in Arabic and bilingual typists are available for a charge of 500 fils. The following supporting documents are needed:
· Salary certificates of sponsor and his wife
· Copy of house rental agreement
· Copy of sponsor’s and wife’s passport
· Proof of ages of children (eg, copy of local birth certificates or passport)
· Copy of the sponsor’s and wife’s civil ID
· Copy of the servant’s passport plus eight passport sized photography
· Copy of the work contract for the servant
To travel to Kuwait, a servant may need to undergo certain formalities in his or her home country. These can be ascertained from the appropriate embassy.
Once he or she has entered the country the formalities fop a servant’s resident visa are photographs and documents needed are the same as for a work visa except for the work permit. The residence fee is KD 10 a year but there is also a charge of KD 200 in the first year.
There are many agencies in Kuwait which specialise in obtain domestic servants for Kuwaitis and expatriates. Some are reliable. A few have unsavory reputations.

New Passports

If an Expatriate’s passport expires before his residence visa runs out then his iqama can be transferred to the new passport. The transfer fee is KD 10. The new passport needs to be presented at the jawazat in Shuwaikh, accompanied by a typed application (500fils as described above) and the following supporting documents:
· Copies of all documents used to obtain the original residence
· Letter from sponsor
· Old passport
Four photographs are also required. Provided everything is in order the iqama may be stamped in the new passport there and then.
Where the validity of his passport has been expanded his residence is still valid an expatriate need do nothing.

Transferring to Another sponsor

Expatriates come to Kuwait to work and at the end of their contracts are expected to return to their native lands rather than remain in Kuwait. But in many cases an expatriate may transfer his residence to a new sponsor provided the current sponsor agrees.
The rules governing the right to transfer is complex and variable. Generally speaking, there are few restrictions on transfers between sponsors within the public sector and the transfer of domestic servants between different sponsors. A domestic servant however may not normally transfer to a sponsor in the private sector unless the transfer is to an establishment owned by his or her current sponsor. But transfer between the government sector (visa-17) and the private sector (visa-1Cool, and vice veisa, are not restricted. While a dependent, such as a wife wishing to work, must have been resident for five years before she can transfer to the private sector (18-visa), though transfers from the private sector to dependent status are unrestricted.
Within the private sector, transfer to a new job as a teacher and not to a sponsor in industry.
And a person on a project visa, ie someone hired by a private firm for a government project, may not normally transfer after the project is completed but must instead leave Kuwait.
Under regulations issued in August 1999 by the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour (MSA&L), expatriates in the private sector may transfer o another sponsor in the private sector only once every two years. Even if dismissed from their job. This rule, which relates only to persons already on an (18-visa), is subject to several exceptions and restrictions:
· Holders of university degrees may transfer as often as they wish. However a degree certificate needs to be attested by the Foreign Ministry in Kuwait, which means that it must first be attested by the holder’s local embassy or by the Kuwait embassy in holders.
· Persons working in establishments that are dissolved, liquidated, merged with others, sold or transferred, may transfer no matter how short a time they have been with their sponsors.
· Husband and children of Kuwait women may transfer as often as they wish.
· Owners, partners and shareholders in local companies may transfer as often as they wish.
· When a government project being undertaken by a private sector firm is given to another contractor or is cancelled or comes to an end, expatriates on project visas may transfer to the company taking over the oproject or to one undertaking a similar project.
· Expatriate in the transport and construction industries may only transfer, every two years, to sponsors within the same industry.

Transfer Procedures

But even if an expatriate is allowed to change his sponsor under the rules he must, in all cases, even if his contract has expired, have the consent of his current sponsor. This consent is evidenced by the sponsor’s signature on a letter of release In addition, to effect the transfer, a copy of the current sponsor’s commercial license is required.
Formalities to obtain the new iqama are similar to those for neither obtaining residence in the first place, though a medical test in nor necessary. The fee for the new work permit is KD 2, and the iqama costs the usual KD 10 a year though there is no rebate for any unexpired years of the old residence. In some cases a transfer fee, payable to the MSA&L, of KD 10 is charged.

Other Residence Visas

Besides work, dependent and domestic iqamas, expatriates may obtain other kids of residence, such as a student residence, or a three-month residence for medical treatment.
Temporary Residence
Expatriate may be granted temporary residence under article 14 in special cases where they do not need or cannot get ordinary residence. This allows for a stay for up to a year, Formerly only given to visitors with personal emergencies, such as illness, Western businessmen seem to obtain temporary residence without difficulty. Recently the Immigration Department has been granting two or three-month temporary residence to the immeigratiate relatives (Father, Mother, Sister, but not Brothers) of residents, whose visit visa have expired.
Temporary residence may also be given to expatriates who have resigned but who need to remain in Kuwait for some time in order to settle their financial affairs or a court case.
The cost is KD 10 A temporary residence is cancelled if the holder leaves the country.


Expatriates who have spent long years in Kuwait may sponsor themselves under article 24 of the regulations and obtain a residence for two to five years, provided they can support themselves financially and can produce a certificate of good conduct. This form of residence can be renewed upon expiry. Self-sponsored expatriates may sponsor their wives and children and are entitled to run their own business.

Exit Permits

Expatriate employees of ministries and some other government institutions must obtain exit permits before they can leave Kuwait. Other expatriate do not require exit visas.

Absence Abroad

A residence visa iscancelled if the holder is absent aboard for a continuous period of six months. The only exceptions are for those who:
· Are studying aboard
· Are receiving necessary treatment aboard, or
· Are required by virtue of their work to be aboard,
Provided permission in all three cases is obtained before leaving Kuwait.
For a student studying overseas, application for permission is made to the immigration office in the applicant’s residential area. An official letter from the child’s college stating that he or she is studying there, authenticated by the Kuwait embassy in the for country and attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kuwait is required. A typist outside the immigration office will type a letter of application in Arabic, which must state the reasons for the application, for 500fils. Other documents needed include copies of passport and civil ID plus four passport-sized photographs. The permission is given in the form of letter.
This letter must be shown to the immigration officer both on departure from Kuwait and on return. The permission is valid for the term of the holder’s residence. It can be used for several entries and exits, and does not need to be renewed until residence is renewed.

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