All expats wishing to work and reside in Kuwait are obliged to obtain a residence permit (‘iqama’). GCC citizens and expats who have been resident in Kuwait continually for a minimum period of 20 years may sponsor themselves if they can prove that they have the means to do so.
Work permits are either obtained under Article 17 (public sector) or 18 (private sector) of the Kuwait Labour Law (see Labour Law [p.55]). The process , which may be slightly amended at any time, tends to proceed as follows:
Ano act as a guide only; you will find cheaper and more expensive accommodation in the same area. The primary factors in establishing the price of the rent are the age of a building, facilities and location.employment is made by an employer (sponsor), andort to the Criminal Investigation Department in order to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC). In certain circumstances some nationalities may also be required to obtain a certificate of good conduct from the relevant authorities in their home country.
When the sponsor receives a copy of the work permit from the MSA&L it is then sent to the employee in his home country who has to submit it to the local Kuwait embassy for endorsing, prior to an entry visa being applied for and issued. The employee has to obtain a medical certificate from a doctor or clinic, recognised by the Kuwait embassy, confirming that he is fit to work and does not suffer from tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS. If there is no Kuwait embassy representation in the employee’s home country, the sponsor will obtain an entry permit from the Ministry of Interior in Kuwait and have it sent to the employee.
If an employee is in Kuwait on a visit visa when he signs his employment contract he will need to leave the country and obtain a medical certificate, as above, before returning on an entry visa. In this instance, if the employee cannot travel to his home country, his sponsor will more than likely send him to Bahrain to obtain the necessary certificate.
On arriving in Kuwait on an entry visa the employee will need to undergo further tests at the Ports and Borders Health Division in Shuwaikh, located in the Ministry of Health building in Gamul Abdul Nasser Street. This includes additional testing for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, as well as a chest x-ray, and tests for hepatitis, malaria and typhoid. Carriers of any of these diseases will not be issued with a work or residence permit and will be deported immediately. Make sure that you are taken through this process by your company mandoub or PRO; it is a little frustrating and stressful trying to work your way through the systems alone.
The next step in the process of getting your residency is to obtain security clearance and have your fingerprints taken at one of the four fingerprinting departments located in Ahmadi, Farwaniya, Jahra and Sharq.
On completion of these formalities the residence application can finally be submitted to the Immigration and Passport Department of the Ministry of Interior in Shuwaikh. A residence permit will be for a maximum period of five years, at a cost of KD 10 per year. Public sector employees are required to pay these costs, while employees in the private sector usually have the costs met by their employer, although this is not mandatory.
On receipt of his residence permit, a man earning a minimum monthly salary of KD 250 may sponsor his wife, parents and children. Daughters, wives and parents may be sponsored indefinitely, while sons may only be sponsored as dependants until they reach the age of 21. Dependants may not work unless they have a valid work permit. All dependants must undergo medical testing and fingerprinting, apart from babies born in Kuwait. Dependants’ visas cost KD 10 per year, in addition to an initial charge of KD 100. An expatriate woman is not able to sponsor her husband, although she may sponsor her dependants if her husband is deceased or not resident in Kuwait.
The minimum monthly salary of KD 250 required in order to sponsor dependants does not apply to a wide number of professions, including lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, lecturers, teaching staff, engineers, clerics, librarians, nurses, reporters, graduate accountants, sports coaches, pilots, flight attendants, and those working in cemeteries.
Domestic Servants’ Visas
An expat family resident in Kuwait may sponsor only one full-time domestic employee. Single men are not permitted to employ female servants. It is a requirement of the law that, in order for a man to sponsor a maid, he must have his wife and children living with him. Only maids between the ages of 20 and 50 may be sponsored and the documentation listed overleaf is required.
• Sponsor’s original passport and Civil ID card and photocopies of both
• Sponsor’s wife’s original passport and Civil ID card and photocopies of both
• Sponsor’s children’s original passports and photocopies
• Sponsor’s salary certificate
• Sponsor’s rent agreement
• Domestic employee’s original passport and photocopy, and eight photographs (max size 40 x 50mm; min size 35 x 45mm)
• Domestic employee’s employment contract
• The residence permit costs KD 10 per year in addition to an initial charge of KD 200
Transfer of Residence to Another Sponsor
It is possible to transfer from one sponsor to another on the condition that an employee has been legally resident in Kuwait for a minimum of two years. However, a transfer requires that the current sponsor agrees to ‘release’ the employee. One regularly hears of employers refusing to allow employees to transfer, resulting in them either staying on in their current employment or having their residence visa cancelled and having to leave Kuwait. It is essential to maintain good relations with your current employer so that he/she agrees to the transfer. A signed release letter, and a copy of the current employer’s commercial licence, will need to be submitted to the Immigration Department in Shuwaikh. A new work permit costs KD 2 and there is a KD 10 transfer fee. Laws governing the issue and transfer of residence and work permits do change from time to time, and you are strongly advised to have an understanding of all that is involved prior to resigning from your original job.
Whether your passport expires, or you run out of space and need a new one, your residence permit will have to be transferred from the old passport to the new one. Once the new passport has been issued it will need to be submitted to the Passport Office in Shuwaikh with the following:
• Previous/expired passport
• Four photographs (max size 40 x 50mm; min size 35 x 45mm)
• Confirmation letter from your sponsor
• Copies of documentation required to process the original residence application
• KD 10
If everything is in order your residence permit will be transferred into your new passport immediately.
Civil ID Cards
You will have 30 days, from the issue date of your residence permit, in which to obtain the compulsory Civil ID card, which is valid for a period of two years and must be renewed prior to expiry. It includes your Civil ID number, visa type and sponsor’s name, photograph, your name, date of birth, blood group and residential address. The information on the card must always be kept current. Keep a photocopy of your Civil ID somewhere safe. Should it be lost you will be required to produce a copy prior to collecting a new card. The number on your card is yours for life, irrespective of whether you change sponsors or leave Kuwait only to return a few years later.
Applications must be made in person to the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI) office, which is located within the Ministries Complex in South Surra (off the 6th Ring Road and opposite the Ministry of Electricity & Water). To process the initial application the following documentation is required:
• Original passport and photocopy of information pages (including photo page) and residence stamp
• Four photographs, 30 x 40mm, clearly showing the face without glasses (for applicants over 11)
• Security Clearance form (for applicants over 16)
• Original birth certificate, if born in Kuwait
• Blood group certificate (for applicants over 5)
• Proof of residential address in Kuwait (rent agreement)
• Declaration signed by the sponsor
• KD 2 (payable when the card is collected)
Processing takes about ten days; call 889 988 between 14:00 and 22:00 or use the PACI website (www.paci.gov.kw) to check on the status of your application. As soon as the Civil ID card has been issued, you will need to return to PACI to collect it. On arrival, go to the information counter and ascertain which of the numbered vending machines holds your card. Pay your KD 2 into the machine and your card will appear in a couple of seconds.
Renewal of Civil ID Cards
An e-government project initiative now means that Civil ID cards may be renewed by telephone, although the new card will have to be physically collected. This is a big step forward for Kuwait and removes a substantial amount of paperwork. Civil ID cards must be renewed within 30 days of renewing your residency. A fine of KD 100 is payable for all late renewals, irrespective of the length of the delay. The procedure to renew is as follows:
1. Dial 88 99 88 between 14:00 and 22:00 from your mobile, land line or international line (including the country code) if you are out of the country.
2. Enter your Civil ID number.
3. Your card will be renewed automatically and you will have to collect your card from the PACI office. On arrival, proceed to the information desk and ask which of the electronic dispensing machines contains your card (they are numbered). You will then need to insert KD 2 into the relevant machine, as well as your old Civil ID, in order to have your renewed Civil ID released.
Replacement of a Lost Civil ID Card
To have a replacement card issued you will have to visit the PACI office in person, with a photocopy of the lost Civil ID and your original passport. The cost is KD 10.