Thursday, September 18, 2008

Visa Rules in Kuwait

There are two basic types of visas, a visit visa and a residence visa.

Application for a Visit Visa
Visit visas and entry permits are valid for entry within 90 days of issue and then for a stay of up to 90 days only after entry. A visit visa costs KD3/-. Entry permits are free.
A foreigner whose country has a visa abolition treaty with Kuwait, i.e. a treaty permitting Kuwaitis to enter their country without a visa, may be granted reciprocal rights in Kuwait. These persons however may require an entry permit. Entry permits are acquired in the same way and have the same procedures as visit visas.
A visitor to Kuwait must be sponsored by a Kuwaiti individual or company, or a resident foreigner who is a relative of the visitor. However American citizens are sometimes given visit visas without having a Kuwaiti sponsor. The visa application is made by the sponsor who is responsible for the visitor while he or she is in Kuwait.
To obtain a visit visa for a business visitor, a Kuwaiti sponsor or company will require:

w visa application and security form completed by the sponsor
w copy of the visitor's passport
w copy of the sponsor's signature as registered for business purposes
w copy of the letter of invitation from the sponsor to the business visitor stating the purpose of the visit.
To obtain a visit visa for a relative, a resident foreigner will require:
w visa application and security form completed by the sponsor
w copy of the visitor's passport
w original and copy of the sponsor's passport
w original and copy of the sponsor's civil ID
w original and copy of the sponsor's work permit (private sector employees)
w recent salary certificate from the sponsor's employer
w authenticated proof of the family relationship.

Normally a visitor goes to a Kuwaiti embassy to have his visa processed and his passport stamped before travelling to Kuwait. However a Kuwaiti sponsor can use a faxed copy of the visitor's passport to obtain the visa in Kuwait. The sponsor then faxes a copy of the visa to the visitor and meets him at the airport with the original visa. The sponsor deposits the visa papers at a special counter in the arrivals hall and the visitor must pick these up at a similar counter inside the immigration area in order to complete entry formalities.
Either way, obtaining a visit visa takes about two working days. Hotels can also arrange visit visas for businessmen but they take about a week to do so, and, naturally enough, expect the visitor to stay with them on arrival.

Extension of Visit
The fine for staying more than 30 days is KD10 a day. A visitor whose visa has expired is not allowed to leave until he has paid the fine, which must be paid at the Immigration Department in Shuwaikh during government working hours and not at the airport. Fines however may be paid a few days in advance and, unless this is done, the flight out is invariably missed.
An expatriate may obtain two one-month extensions to a visit visa or temporary residence provided application is made to the Immigration Department before the visa has expired.
While there is a move to relax the visit visa process, the Ministry is considering a charge of KD 100 for each additional month provided the entire visit period should not exceed a year. Only the first month of visit will be free.

Transit Visas
A transit visa, valid for a maximum stay of 7 days, can be obtained from a Kuwaiti Consulate abroad or from a Port Authority in Kuwait. The fee is KD2. The applicant must have a valid visa for his next country of destination and, unless he is working on a ship or airline, a confirmed onward ticket. International truck drivers and their helpers may obtain multiple entry transit visas.

A person in Kuwait on a visit visa may not take up employment, for which he or she must have a residence visa.
There is possibility that in the future expatriates coming to Kuwait on a visit visa may be allowed to pursue a career without having to leave the country and return on new entry visa. However, expatriates who obtain a job in Kuwait while on a visit may be required to pay KD 100 to avoide leaving the country and returning on a work permit.

Obtaining Residence
To live in Kuwait, expatriates other than GCC citizens must have an iqama, i.e. a residence permit. A person discovered without a valid iqama is fined and deported.
There are different types of iqama, which are allotted 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.

Ministry of Interior website
The Interior Ministry's Information Department has introduced a new service through the Ministry's website:
in which residency and visa forms will be available.
The website will also introduce forms for the Traffic Department and Citizenship.
An awareness campaign through the media will be launched to educate citizens and expatriates on how to finish their papers at the Interior Ministry via the Internet.

Work Permits, no-Objection Certificates & 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 full personal details, and any other Kuwait entry visas. A private sector sponsoring employer must then obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the General Administration of Criminal Investigation at the Ministry of the Interior which he does 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 the employee will take, with a medical certificate, to the Kuwaiti Embassy for endorsement. The Kuwaiti Embassy will have received a copy of the work permit through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Those sponsored by private sector companies will require their NOCs and a copy of the employer's authorised signatory as registered for business purposes. A good conduct certificate, which is obtained from the police in the last place of residence, may be required for some nationalities. Applicants are also required to provide a medical certificate stating that their general state of health is good and that they are free of specific epidemic diseases. The Embassy will then provide an entry visa for Kuwait on submission of the application form.
If the employee is living in a country that has no Kuwaiti Embassy then the sponsor 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 accepts employment, then, once the work permit and NOC are ready, he must leave Kuwait and return on the entry visa the sponsor obtains for him. This can be a short round trip to Bahrain by air for the day.
Once he has entered Kuwait on the entry visa, the employee is required to undergo 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 before the Chest Hospital is reached. Requirements are passport, copy of NOC, a single photograph and a KD10 revenue stamp. Revenue stamps are available from post offices, or from private traders outside the test area who charge a small premium over the nominal value of the stamp.
To take the tests, 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 blood tests for serious infectious diseases, such as AIDS, and a chest x-ray. A meningitis vaccination is also given. It takes about a week for the results, which are given in the form of a certificate from the Ministry of Public Health, to come through. Persons found to be infected with epidemic diseases are deported.
Expatriates employed in restaurants, hotels, hospitals and food processing are required to go for health check up every year and obtain the certificate. Also people from the following countries will require annual check-ups: Somalia, Thailand, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Eritrea, Senegal, Kenya, Chad, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Mauritania, Benin, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Mauritius, Bhutan, Zaire, Guinea, Togo, Mali, Seychelles, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Malawi, Malta, Guinea-Bissau, Fijji, Cuba, Haiti, Zambia, Angola, Congo and Namobia.

Health Insurance Scheme
From April 10, 2000 Ministry of Health has imposed health insurance on expatriates. No new residence is stamped or old renewed unless the expatriates have paid the state health insurance premiums, KD 50 for the head of the family, KD 40 for the wife and KD 30 for every child below the age of 18. The duration of expatriates' residence is linked directly to the period covered by health insurance. One year health insurance paid entitles only one year residence permit.
Though Kuwaiti nationals are exempted from the scheme, foreign women married to Kuwaitis and children of Kuwaiti women married to foreigners are required to pay KD 5 insurance premium.
The law stipulates that the employers pay the premiums for their employees.

Privatisation of Health Insurance
According to a recent report the Health Ministry has taken measures to privatise the health insurance scheme currently enforced on the expatriates. The premium may be reduced to KD 30 per year. The private health insurance scheme will mainly provide health services for expatriates through certain hospitals that will provide services under policies issued by the private sector.
Kuwait Municipality has allocated land for three health insurance hospitals in Jahra, Ahmadi and Farwaniya to construct insurance hospitals and more hospitals will be built in the future.

Fingerprinting & Security Clearance
There are four fingerprint departments where expatriates can have their fingerprints registered and obtain security clearance. These are located in Khaled Ibn Al Waleed Street, Sharq, near the toy shops (for persons living in the City governorate), Al-Ghazali Street, Farwaniya (for persons living in Hawalli and Farwaniya governorates), Ahmadi and Jahra.
To have fingerprints registered, an employee's passport, copy of the 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 always freelance typists around who will do so for a small fee.
It takes about a week for the fingerprints to be processed and the security clearance certificate to be issued by the Criminal Evidence Department of the Ministry of the Interior. The certificate is picked up from the same place.

Application for Residence
The actual application for an iqama is made at the Immigration 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 bring along the following documents in the form of both originals and photocopies:

w declaration on the prescribed form completed and signed by the sponsor
w passport
w work permit
w medical certificate
w security clearance (fingerprint) certificate

Four passport size photographs are also required. A maximum of five years residence can be granted. The fee is KD10 per year of residence, with an additional KD2 in the first 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 sponsor and the employee.

Renewing Residence
After the initial residence has expired it can be renewed, provided the expatriate intends to continue under the same sponsor. Renewal is a fairly simple matter. Applications are made at the jawazaat in Shuwaikh and the process should be started a month before the expiry of the current residence.
Medical tests are not required on renewal. However the employee's work permit must first be renewed with the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour. The application for renewal must be supported by:

w the employee's passport and a copy of it,
w the renewed work permit, and
w a copy of the sponsor's signature as required for business purposes.

Normally the sponsor or his official 'mandoub' will attend at the jawazaat to renew the employee's iqama. Where the employee does so himself, he must have a letter from his sponsor authorising him to do so.

Most offices in Kuwait have a mandoub, a representative whose job is to process the 'official' paperwork of his company. A mandoub is usually an expatriate Arab. His value depends on his knowledge of the required forms and procedures and his ability to push paperwork through government bureaucracy. To deal with certain ministries the mandoub must be officially registered.

Once he has obtained his own residency, a male employee may sponsor his wife and children to live with him in Kuwait. Permission to sponsor wife and children is granted only to those who meet the minimum salary condition. The Ministry of Interior lowered the minimum monthly salary requirement for expatriates in both the private and government sectors to KD.250 Expatriates of all nationalities are allowed to sponsor their wives and children if they are earning minimum KD.250 per month.
A working wife cannot sponsor her husband as a dependent. Sons over 21 years cannot be sponsored as dependants, though adult daughters and parents may. Dependent family members may not work without transferring to a work visa under Kuwaiti sponsorship.
An entry visa for a dependent is obtained from the jawazaat (Passport Office) 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 required:

w sponsor's salary certificate
w copy of the sponsor's civil ID
w copy of the dependent's passport
w 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 certified by the Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Once they have entered the country the formalities for a dependent's iqama (art 22) are similar to those for a work visa. The dependent must be medically tested and fingerprinted. The photo-graphs 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.
The residence fees for each dependent (wife or child) are KD100 in the first year and KD10 a year thereafter. However the fee for a parent is KD200 a year. These charges apply to all expatriate sponsors whether they are working in the public or private sectors.
Expatriates who are in Kuwait on a visit visa may transfer to a dependent visa without having to leave the country and return.

New Born Baby
When a baby is born to expatriates in Kuwait, the parents must obtain a dependent's 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 a birth certificate for the child. The hospital where the child was born will provide a notification of the birth. This must be taken to the registry of births in the governorate in which the birth took place to obtain the official birth certificate. The hospital will provide the address. The additional documents required to obtain the birth certificate include: application form duly comp-leted, photocopies of parents' passport and civil IDs, and authenticated marr-iage contract. The birth certificate is usu-ally ready to be picked up at the registry after about a week. The fee is KD10.
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.
To obtain residence the baby's name must first be added to the parent's passport or a separate passport must be obtained for the infant. To obtain a passport for the child, different emba-ssies have different rules, but most non-Arabic embassies require a certified translation of the child's birth certificate while some require the birth 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 one of its parent'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 medical tests and fingerprinting. The documents required 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 infant's residence must be made within 60 days of the birth to avoid a fine of KD 200.
Where the father works in the private sector, the administrative fee for the new-born infant is KD100 in the first year for the first and second child, and KD200 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 subsequent child is KD100 in the first year. The actual residence fee is KD10 a year.

If an expatriate's passport expires before his residence visa runs out then his iqama can be transferred to the new passport.
When an expatriate applies to his Embassy for a new passport, his old passport will probably be cancelled. He should make sure that the pages containing his residence visa are not stamped 'cancelled', otherwise he may find that he has to apply for a new residence rather than being allowed to transfer his residence from his old to his new passport.
Once he has obtained his new passport, an expatriate should take it along with the old passport to the jawazaat in Shuwaikh, where a typed application is presented. The required supporting documents are:

w copies of all documents used to obtain the original residence
w letter from sponsor
w 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 extended and his residence is still valid the expatriate need do nothing.

An expatriate can usually transfer his residence to a new sponsor provided his current sponsor is agreeable. For government employees, domestic servants and dependants, there are few restrictions on transfers between sponsors in the same sector.
However the rules governing the right to transfer to a new sponsor in the private sector are complex. Transfers are usually restricted to the 'same sector'. For example, a teacher may normally only transfer to a new job as a teacher and may not transfer to a sponsor in industry. Domestic workers can transfer to the private farming sector under the same sponser after oneyear's residence in Kuwait. However. domestic workers desiring to change their '20 residence' to '18 residence' should cancel their residence, leave the country and return on a new work permit. But a person on a domestic servant's visa may not transfer to an 18-visa until five years have elapsed since he or she obtained residence. And a person on a 'project' visa, i.e. someone who was hired by a private sector firm for a particular government project, may not normally transfer to private sector after the project is completed but could transfer to another government sponsor.
According to new transfer rules which were introduced in April 2001, expatriates working in the private sector are permitted to transfer residence to another sponsor after one year with their current sponsor and his consent. The transfer fee, payable to the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour (MSA&L), is KD10 plus KD2 for the new work permit. This fee is additional to the KD10 per year payable to the Ministry of the Interior for the new iqama. An employee of a liquidated company, or of a company that has merged with another, may also transfer without paying this fee, and no matter how short a time he has been with his current employer.
But before he can change his sponsor a resident expatriate must obtain a 'letter of release' from his current sponsor. This letter is used by the new sponsor to obtain a new work permit for the expatriate. Where a current sponsor refuses to provide the 'letter of release', the matter can be taken up with the Labour Department in the Ministry of Social Affairs &Labour. Where the Department finds that the employer has no valid reason for withholding the release, or finds that the employer has broken terms in the labour contract or has violated the Labour Law, the Department may sanction the transfer irrespective of the current sponsor's wishes.
Where residence is transferred, the expatriate does not need to leave the country and come back again, nor does he have to be medically tested. Otherwise formalities to obtain the new iqama are similar to those for obtaining residence in the first place. Once these have been completed, the old iqama is cancelled and the new iqama stamped in the passport. The fee is KD10 a year and there is no rebate for any unexpired years of the old residence.
An expatriate who is not allowed to transfer his residence under the regulations may instead, if he wishes to change sponsor, resign his job, leave Kuwait and return on a fresh work permit. He or she does not need to return to his/her own country but can go to any other state in the region.
New set of proposed charges on visa transfers and work permits to be imposed on expats in the private sector was submitted to the Cabinet in May 2001. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour will impose these charges after the Cabinet approval. The Council of Ministers is likely to approve additional charges on expatriates for visa transfers and work permits to subsidise the employment of Kuwaiti manpower in the private sector. According to proposals the term required for free- transfer may be increased to three years. Expat workers wishing to transfer their residence anytime before three years may have to pay KD 250. The charges for issuing a work permit may be increased to KD 50 per year instead of the current KD 10, and the annual renewal may cost KD 5 instead of the current KD 2 charge. Expats sponsoring themselves under Article 19 may have to pay KD 100 per year.

Besides work, dependent and domestic iqamas, expatriates may obtain other kinds of residence, such as a student residence, or a three month residence for medical treatment.
An expatriate may be granted temporary residence under article 14 of the immigration regulations in special cases where he does not need or cannot get ordinary residence. This allows him to stay for up to one year. Though it is usually only given to visitors with personal emergencies such as illness. 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. In mid 1998 the Immigration Department announced that it would consider granting two month temporary residences to the immediate relatives (father, mother and sisters but not brothers) of resident expatriates who are in Kuwait on visit visas (which cannot otherwise be extended). The cost of a temporary residence is KD10. 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.

Exit Permits
Expatriate employees of ministries and some other government institutions must obtain exit permits before they can leave Kuwait.

Absence Abroad
A residence visa is cancelled if the holder is absent abroad for a continuous period of six months. The only exceptions are for those who (a) are studying abroad, (b) are receiving necessary treatment abroad, or (c) are required by virtue of their work to be abroad, 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 Kuwaiti embassy in the foreign 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. Other documents needed include copies of passport and civil ID plus four passport sized photographs. The permission is given in the form of a letter.
The permission must be shown to the immigration officer both on departure from Kuwait and on return. The permission is valid for the remainder of the holder's residence and can be used for several entries and exits. It does not need to be renewed until residence is renewed.

To take up a part-time job, a government employee must get permission from his employer, i.e. ministry or other public body. Expatriates working in the private sector must get permission from the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour.
Permission from that ministry is obtained from the assistant under-secretary's office in the Ministries Complex in Kuwait City on Mondays and Wednesdays only. The applicant must submit a letter requesting permission, which must state the place of work, the monthly salary and the reason why a part-time job is needed. This letter must be supported by a letter of permission from the applicant's sponsor plus copies of the applicant's civil ID, passport and current salary certificate. The permission, if granted, is valid for one year but it can be renewed annually.

Once an expatriate has obtained his residence then he must obtain a civil identity (ID) card (bitaqa-almadiniyah or bitaqa for short), no matter what type of residence he is on. Civil ID cards are issued by PACI, the Public Authority for Civil Information. After his first card has been issued, the holder's civil ID number remains the same even if he changes his sponsor or leaves and comes back several years later on a different residence visa.
The civil ID card shows the holder's civil number, full name, date of birth (which is also included in the algorithm for the ID number), local address, blood group, sponsor's name, type of visa, etc, and date of expiry of the card. When ever the card expires or an expatriate changes sponsor, renews his residence or changes his address, his civil ID card must be amended accordingly.

Whether applying for the first time or renewing or replacing a civil ID card, four photographs, showing the face without spectacles, are always required for those over 11 years of age. Photographs are not needed for elderly Kuwaiti females.

Registration Procedures
To register for a civil ID for the first time, the documents required are:

w passport
w copy of passport pages showing personal details and residence stamp
w security clearance (fingerprint) form (those over 16 years)
w original birth certificate (if born in Kuwait)
w blood group certificate (those over 5 years)
w proof of house address (e.g., rental agreement and rent receipts)
w declaration signed by sponsor

For a first time domestic servant's civil ID all the above documents, except the first, are needed. For the first civil ID of a baby born in Kuwait, just a copy of the baby's birth certificate, and a copy of the sponsor's passport (showing personal details, residence stamp and the addition of the baby) or the baby's own passport (showing personal details and residence stamp), are required.
When changing or renewing a civil ID, an expatriate, no matter what type of visa he is on, only needs to submit a copy of his passport (showing personal details and the residence stamp) and his sponsor's declaration. To have an amended card issued following a change of address, the current card plus proof of the new address (e.g., rental agreement) must be submitted. To replace a lost card, a photocopy of the lost card and the expatriate's passport is required.
First time applicants on a work or dependent's visa must go in person to the PACI office in South Surra, as must all those who wish to replace a lost card. Those on a work or dependent's visa who are renewing or changing their civil IDs, and first time applicants for a domestic servant's civil ID, and applicants for the first civil ID of a baby born in Kuwait, can buy the application form and special envelopes from ?Express-Envelope? machines located in Coop supermarkets (250fils), follow the instructions and submit their applications in these special machines.

Charges, Time Limits & Penalties
The charge for a civil ID card is KD2 when it is first issued and each time it is renewed. The charge is paid when the card is collected. There is a fee of KD10 to replace a lost card.
An expatriate must apply for a civil ID card within 30 days of getting his residency, and must renew his card within 30 days of renewing his residency. For an expatriate child born in Kuwait, the time limit for first registration is 60 days from the date of birth. In all cases the penalty for late applications is a flat fine of KD100 irrespective of the length of the delay, though in practice PACI only levy a one-off fine of KD20.

Collection of Civil ID Card
It takes about 10 days for a civil ID card to be processed. Expatriates can ascertain the status of cards under process through PACI's computerised telephone answering system by calling 889988 (1for replies in Arabic and 2 for replies in English) and keying in their civil ID number (for renewals) or the serial number on the outside of the envelope in which the application was submitted.
The civil ID card can only be picked up in person at the PACI offices in South Surra from an electronic dispensing machine. The actual machine to be used is ascertained by dialling the above telephone numbers. Two dinars plus the old civil ID card (if held) must be fed into the machine to obtain the new card.



Yao said...

Great Info!!!

American in Kuwait said...

Glad I could help.

Unknown said...

I would like to keep my passport with me, i live in kuwait, but the company says it have to stay with them, any suggestions?