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Kuwait - Visa

Kuwait is in the process of re-defining all visa regulations. It is advised that you follow the procedures laid down by the Immigration authorities. It is not possible to enter Kuwait unless you have the necessary paperwork or are a GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council composed of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman) citizen. Acquiring a visit visa is a fairly straightforward process whilst immigration formalities for those wishing to reside and work in Kuwait are more involved and can take a considerable amount of time. It is worth remembering that you are a guest in Kuwait; patience is a pre-requisite!

Most companies guide their employees through the Immigration process. All companies tend to have a ‘mandoub’; a person, usually of Arab or Indian descent, who has worked with the company for many years and knows the ins and outs of the local bureaucracy. Take full advantage of the services of the mandoub; it will save you a lot of time

Types of visa

  • Multi entry visas   are essentially visit visas however the holder of the multi-entry visa may enter and exit Kuwait any number of times over a given period. Multi-entry visas tend to be given for three or six months.
  • Transit Visas   may be obtained from a Kuwaiti Embassy or from the Kuwait Port Authority should you arrive by sea. They are valid for a period of 7 days. You must be able to show a confirmed onward ticket when arriving in Kuwait by air, and have a valid visa, if required, for your next destination.
  • Visit Visa   Visit visas are processed on arrival at Kuwait International Airport. However, as this process was initiated in 2004, there are often occasions when visas are refused by the Immigration authorities, so it may be prudent to obtain your visa in advance of your arrival in Kuwait whenever possible. The charge for a visit visa is KD3.

All visitors to Kuwait, other than GCC citizens, require a visa and need to be ‘sponsored’. Sponsorship may only be provided by a Kuwaiti citizen or a Kuwaiti company. Foreigners with a valid residence permit are permitted to sponsor dependants.

Citizens of countries who have visa treaties with Kuwait may be granted reciprocal rights when visiting Kuwait, although an entry permit may be required. Entry permits can be obtained from any Kuwaiti Embassy and are free of charge.

Visit visas are valid for entry into Kuwait 90 days from the date of issue. A stay of a maximum of 30 days from the date of entry is then permitted. Remaining in Kuwait for longer than the permitted period will result in a fine of KD10 for every day or part thereof. Any fines incurred have to be paid at the Immigration Department in Shuwaikh prior to departure; you are not permitted to pay the fines at the airport.

Should you know that you will not be able to leave Kuwait at the end of the permitted 30 day period it is possible to obtain a visa extension, although this can only be done prior to the expiry of the original visa. Visitors are allowed a maximum of two one-month extensions.

New Passport

  • Should you run out of pages in your passport, or it expires, you will need to transfer your residence permit into your new passport. It is vital, when your old passport is submitted to your embassy for renewal, that they do not cancel the pages containing the residence permit. Should this happen it is quite likely that your residence will be cancelled by the Immigration Department.
  • Once the new passport has been issued it is to be taken, along with your old passport, 4 photographs (maximum 40mm x 50mm; minimum 35mm x 45mm), KD10, a confirmation letter from your sponsor, and all copies of documentation required to process the original residence application, to the Passport Office in Shuwaikh. Should everything be in order your residence permit will be transferred into your new passport immediately.

    Should a passport have sufficient pages and simply be extended by the embassy no changes to the residence permit need be made.

Residence procedures

  • All non-GCC citizens wishing to live in Kuwait must obtain a residence permit or ‘iqama’. Iqamas are split into three categories; work, dependant and domestic. Non-Kuwaitis who have been resident in Kuwait for a minimum specified period of time (in excess of 20 consecutive years) may sponsor themselves provided that they can prove substantial financial means.
  • Residence visas will be cancelled without notification shoulder the holder be absent from Kuwait for a period of more than six continuous months. The only exceptions to this rule are those studying abroad, receiving medical treatment abroad or those requiring absence from Kuwait for extended periods due to their work requirements. However, permission to be absent for more than six months has to be obtained prior to departure from Kuwait.

Civil ID card

Within 30 days of completion of residence formalities it is mandatory for all expatriates to apply for and obtain a Civil ID card. Whether you are purchasing a car, opening a bank account or applying to place your children in a school, you will be required to produce your Civil ID 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.

First time applicants must proceed to the PACI (Public Authority for Civil Information) office in person, which is located within the Ministries Complex in South Surra (off the 6th Ring Road and opposite the Ministry of Electricity & Water). Documents required in order to process your Civil ID for the first time are as follows;

  • Passport
  • 4 recent photographs (30mm x 40mm) showing the face clearly and without spectacles (for all applicants over 11 years of age)
  • Copy of passport pages showing personal details (including photograph) and the residence stamp
  • Security Clearance form (for all applicants over 16 years of age)
  • Original birth certificate, if born in Kuwait
  • Blood group certificate (for applicants over 5 years of age)
  • Proof of residential address in Kuwait
  • Declaration signed by the Sponsor
  • Issue fee of KD2 (payable when the card is collected)

It takes approximately 10 days to have your Civil ID card issued. It is possible to check on the status of your card by calling 88 99 88, or by logging on to the PACI website, .

When you have confirmation that your Civil ID card is ready proceed to the information desk at the PACI office and ask which of the electronic dispensing machines contains your card (they are numbered). You will then need to insert KD2 into the relevant machine, as well as your old Civil ID, in order to have your renewed Civil ID released.

Civil ID cards are valid for a period of two years and must be renewed prior to expiry. Details included are a photograph, name, date of birth, civil id number, local address, type of visa, blood group and the sponsor’s name.

The details on the card must always be current. Should your personal situation change in any way i.e. you move homes or change sponsor’s your must update your card. Updating of the card must be done in person at the PACI office.

It is wise to make a photocopy of your Civil ID card and keep it safe for two reasons; should you lose your card you will be required to produce this copy to have another re-issued and, should you be required to produce identification whilst waiting for another card to be issued, you at least have some proof of a Civil ID.

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 KD100 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 the hours of 14:00 – 22:00 from your mobile, land line or international line 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 KD2 into the relevant machine, as well as your old Civil ID, in order to have your renewed Civil ID released.

Amendment to details of Civil ID card

When amendments to the Civil ID card need to be made i.e. change of address, marital status etc. the original card is to be submitted to the PACI office together with proof of change or address, marriage certificate etc.

Replacement of a lost Civil ID card

You will have to visit the PACI office in person to have a lost card replaced. Ensure that you take a photocopy of the lost Civil ID card as well as your passport with you. Replacement of a lost card costs KD10.

Dependants Visa

A male employee may sponsor his wife and children only on completion of his residence formalities however, salary conditions apply. Expatriates of all nationalities are permitted to sponsor wives and children if they earn in excess of KD400 per month.

Daughters and parents may be sponsored indefinitely however; sons may only be sponsored as dependants up to the age of 21. A working wife cannot sponsor her husband as a dependant. Dependants are not permitted to work unless they transfer to a work visa.

As with work permits applications for dependant’s residence visas are to be made at the Immigration & Passport Department in Shuwaikh and all dependants must have medical tests and be fingerprinted.

Domestic servants visa

Expatriates resident in Kuwait may sponsor one full-time servant at any given time. It is a requirement of law that if a male expatriate wishes to sponsor a female servant he must have his wife and children living with him. Maids must be between the ages of 20 – 50. The finally authorisation as to whether an expatriate may sponsor a maid or not lies with the Immigration Department.

Entry visas are obtained from the Passport Office in Shuwaikh. The application, typed in Arabic must be submitted with the following documentation;

  • Copies of sponsor’s passport and Civil ID
  • Copies of wife’s passport and Civil ID
  • Copies of children’s passports
  • Sponsor’s salary certificate
  • Sponsor’s house / apartment rental agreement
  • Copy of the servant’s passport and eight photographs (maximum 40mm x 50mm; minimum 35mm x 45mm)
  • Copy of the servant’s employment contract

Prior to travelling to Kuwait the servant may be required to undergo various formalities in their country of origin; this needs to be checked with the servant’s embassy in Kuwait. On arrival in Kuwait the servant will be required to undergo the standard procedures for acquisition of a residence permit. The residence fee is KD10 per year however there is also an initial charge of KD200 in the first year to issue a domestic servant’s visa.

Expatriate babies born in Kuwait

The process for registering the birth of a baby in Kuwait is time-consuming but it is imperative that it is carried out correctly in order to avoid delays and complications.

The hospital in which the baby was born will provide a notification of the birth, in Arabic. This notification must then be taken to the governorate (municipal) office of the area in which the hospital is located. Additional paperwork required are the completed birth certificate application form, photocopies of the parents’ passports and Civil ID’s, and the parents’ authenticated marriage certificate. The birth is then recorded in the register of births. The actual birth certificate takes approximately one week to process and is in Arabic. In order to ensure that the child’s name is correctly entered in the register it is advisable to have an Arab-speaking person write the correct translation of the baby’s name in Arabic.

In order to process a residence permit the child must be issued with a passport. Most non-Arab embassies in Kuwait will require a translated copy of the birth certificate whilst some will require that the birth certificate is authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kuwait.

Once a passport has been acquired the procedure for obtaining residence is as that for any other dependant, although infants born in Kuwait are not required to undergo medical tests and fingerprinting. Application for residence must be made within 60 calendar days of the birth otherwise a large fine of KD200 is payable.

Transfer of residence to another sponsor

Transfer from one sponsor to another can be a fraught and complicated process and it is known for companies to refuse to transfer sponsorship which then results in work and residence permits being cancelled. In order to effect a smooth transfer it is vital that your current sponsor agrees to the transfer. This agreement needs to take the form of a signed ‘letter of release’ which should be accompanied by a copy of the current sponsor’s commercial licence.

The formalities for obtaining a new work permit will then apply although a medical test will not be necessary. The fee for the new work permit is KD2 and there may be a transfer charge of KD10.

Laws relating to the transfer of residence permits are complex and do vary considerably so it is prudent to check the current status completely before commencing the process.

Work Visa (permit)

Work permits may be obtained under Articles 17(public sector) or 18(private sector) of the Kuwait Labour Law (see Labour Law) and are prepared in advance of or after the employee’s arrival in Kuwait (if the employee is on a visit visa). A summary of the process follows:

  • The employment offer is made and accepted.
  • The sponsor applies for the work permit at the MSA&L (ministry of Social Affairs & Labour).
  • Private sector employers obtain an NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the Criminal Investigation Department after submission of the employee’s particulars (copy of passport). In addition a certificate of good conduct may be required by the police for certain nationalities.

On receipt of the work permit from the MSA&L the employer sends a copy to the employee in his country of origin. This copy is then to be submitted to the Kuwaiti Embassy for endorsement, after which an entry visa is applied for. In addition to completing the necessary paperwork all employees are to obtain a medical certificate from a clinic or doctor recognised by the Kuwait Embassy confirming that the employee is fit to work and is free from specified diseases such as Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Should there not be a Kuwaiti Embassy in the employee’s country of origin the employer will obtain the necessary entry permit from the Ministry of Interior in Kuwait and pass a copy on to the employee. In some instances a good conduct report may be required from the police in the employee’s home country.

Should the employee be in Kuwait on a visit visa when his work permit is being applied for it is then necessary for him or her to leave Kuwait and return on the entry visa. In addition the necessary medical certificate will have to be obtained whilst outside Kuwait. It is common practice for employees, if they cannot proceed to their home country, to travel to Bahrain to undergo the necessary medical tests.

  • On arriving/returning to Kuwait the employee is obliged to undergo further medical tests which comprise a chest x-ray and blood tests for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis (B&C), Typhoid and Malaria. If any person is found to be carrying any of the above diseases they are immediately deported. All employees, irrespective of where they live, are required to have the medical tests carried out at the Ports & Borders Health Division, Ministry of Health, Gamul Abdul Nasser Street, Shuwaikh. Again it is recommended, if at all possible, that you have the company mandoub guide you through this procedure. It can be very confusing, a little stressful and rather intimidating trying to establish what to do on your own.
  • Fingerprinting and security clearance is mandatory for all expatriates arriving in Kuwait and the location of the fingerprint department you are to attend will depend on your residential/work area.
  • Application for the residence permit is to be made at the Immigration & Passport Department in Shuwaikh. A maximum period of five years will be granted at a cost of KD10 per year. Employees working in the public sector are to pay this cost whilst it is a matter of negotiation as to whether private sector employees or their employers pay.

There are a number of companies who, on completion of immigration procedures, still insist on holding employees passports for ‘safe-keeping’. It is not advisable to hand your passport over for a number of reasons including the fact that you will not be able to travel at short notice in an emergency. Bear in mind that your passport is not your property but belongs to the issuing government and you are, by handing your passport to your employer, handing it to an unauthorised party. Should you have handed a passport over to an employer and have difficulty in having it returned it is advisable to take the matter up with your embassy immediately.

Always make a copy of your work visa (permit) for safe keeping. Only two copies of the work visa are ever issued; one is given to the Immigration Department to process a residency application and the other is retained by the sponsoring company. Should the sponsoring company misplace their copy of the work visa it cannot be replaced.

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