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.
Permits, No-objection Certs & Work Visas (TOP)
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.
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.
& Security Clearance (TOP)
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
for Residence (TOP)
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.
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 employeeís work permit must first be renewed with
the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour. The applicatin for renewal
must be supported by:
· The employeeís
· The renewed work
· A copy of the sponsorís
signature as required for business purposes
Normally the sponsors or
his official mandoub will attend at the jawazat to renew the employeeís
iqama. Where the employee does so himself, he must a letter from his sponsors
authorising him to do so.
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:
· Sponsorís salary
· Copy of the sponsorís
· Copy of the dependentís
· Authenticated marriage
certificate or childís birth certificate
The marriage certificate
and childís birth certificate must be authenticated by the sponsorís embassy
and certificate by the Kuwait Ministry of foreign Affairs.
Once they have entered the
country the formalities for a dependentís 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 sponsorís 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.
Born Child (TOP)
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 infantís 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 parentís 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
babyís name must first be added to the fatherís 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 parentís 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 childís 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 fatherís passport, the procedures
for obtaining the childís 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 fatherís 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 parentís, marriage contact
translated into Arabic, and the childís 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.
Servantís Visa (TOP)
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 servantís 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 familyís 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
· Copy of sponsorís
and wifeís passport
· Proof of ages of
children (eg, copy of local birth certificates or passport)
· Copy of the sponsorís
and wifeís civil ID
· Copy of the servantís
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 servantís 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.
If an Expatriateís 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
to Another sponsor (TOP)
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
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-18), 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
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 holderís 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
· Expatriate in the
transport and construction industries may only transfer, every two years,
to sponsors within the same industry.
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 sponsorís signature on a letter of release
In addition, to effect the transfer, a copy of the current sponsorís 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.
Residence Visas (TOP)
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.
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
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
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.
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 applicantís
residential area. An official letter from the childís 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 holderís residence. It can
be used for several entries and exits, and does not need to be renewed
until residence is renewed.