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Kuwait - Work 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;

  • 1. The employment offer is made and accepted.
  • 2. The sponsor applies for the work permit at the MSA&L (Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour).
  • 3. 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.
  • 4. 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.
  • 5. 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 reside in Kuwait, 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 when you are on your own.
  • 6. Fingerprinting and security clearance is mandatory for all expatriates arriving in Kuwait and must be carried out at one of the four fingerprinting departments (Ahmadi, Farwaniya, Jahra and Sharq), dependent on the location of your residence.
  • 7. 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.

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.

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