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Kuwait - Visas

Kuwait’s expat community has grown rapidly over the past few decades. There are now two immigrant residents for every Kuwaiti citizen. The political climate in the state is increasingly hostile to this level of immigration, and foreigners are being blamed for everything from burdening the health service to depriving citizens of good jobs.

The issuing of visas is already a tightly controlled process. To live in the state of Kuwait, you have to be given a job by a sponsoring employer. In December 2015, the parliament of Kuwait voted to reduce the expat community to a maximum of 50% of the state’s total population. There is an active desire to reduce the number of people arriving in Kuwait and to persuade the existing foreign residents to leave. 29,000 people were deported in 2016 and one group of MPs are looking to deport up to 1 million over the next decade. Indians and Egyptians have been particularly vulnerable to deportation, usually for minor violations in this conservative country, because their communities are so large here.

Kuwait is not unusual in its concern over immigration levels. Many other Gulf states already have or are introducing restrictions on expat immigration.

If you are from one of the approved countries and travelling by air to Kuwait for a holiday, to visit friends or to conduct business, you can obtain a visa which allows you to stay for a maximum of thirty days. The visa is free and can be obtained on arrival in Kuwait, although you can also apply via the e-visa system if you want a faster journey through the arrivals process.

Should you need longer to visit friends, conduct business or enjoy your holiday, then you can apply for a ninety day visa. A fee will be charged when you make your application. Again, you can apply for the visa on arrival in Kuwait, or receive a faster welcome to Kuwait by having obtained your e-visa before travel.

If you are travelling to Kuwait by land or sea, or your country of origin is not on the approved country list, you cannot apply for the e-visa. Instead, you will need to make an application via the Kuwaiti embassy nearest to you.

Please note that if you are refused entry into the state of Kuwait, you have no official right to demand a reason.

If you are a citizen of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC countries) - with the exception of Iraq - you may arrive in Kuwait and obtain a three month visa as long as you meet strict conditions. You must have a valid passport, a return ticket, have not been blacklisted by the Kuwaiti authorities and must provide the address you will be staying at. You will also need to prove your professional status as the visa is only available to those who are a doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher, judge, consultant, public prosecutor, a university teacher, journalist, press & media staff, pilot, system analyst, pharmacist, computer programmer, manager, businessman, diplomatic corps, owners, manager or representative of commercial companies & establishments, or a university graduate.

Regardless of your transport, visa and intended length of stay, you must have all relevant documents ready to hand. These may include your passport, visa, evidence of return or onward travel, hotel confirmation, and sponsor’s letter. If you are on business, you must bring a letter from your company requesting a visa and accepting they are a guarantor for you whilst you are in Kuwait.

When you arrive, your passport must be valid for at least another six months. The immigration staff may refuse entry into Kuwait if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport.

Please note that sex outside of marriage is illegal in Kuwait. Your domestic arrangements elsewhere do not change this and will not prevent your imprisonment and deportation. Never underestimate the amount of trouble you will be in for flouting an important law here. If you want your partner to live with you in Kuwait, you MUST be married. If they decide to visit you in Kuwait you must avoid all public shows of affection. Immigration officials may demand evidence of separate accommodation bookings for unmarried couples travelling together.

If you want to live in Kuwait, you or your spouse must have a job there and hold a valid work permit. If you cease working at any stage, you must return home within thirty days.

You must receive a job offer before you travel to Kuwait. The employer will make the application for your work permit. They will submit evidence that a firm job offer has been made, and will supply a copy of the contract of employment. Once your work visa has been approved, you will be issued with an identification card. Now you must apply for a residency visa.

To apply to live in Kuwait, either as an employee or a student, you must submit a fully completed residency visa application to the Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The fee must be paid in full on application, by cash, money order or business cheque payable to The General Consulate of the State of Kuwait, and is non refundable. A number of original identity documents will be needed to support the application. They include your birth certificates, a passport with at least six months validity left, a passport photo, your marriage certificate, your driving license, your contract of employment, and possibly academic records and financial records.

You will need to receive a clean police report from your home country, which is dated after the work permit is issued by the General Department of Immigration Affairs in Kuwait.

When you are submitting documents to support your visa application, you must pay to have the documents authenticated by

• The nearest Embassy for the State of Kuwait; and
• The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK, the US State Department or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the country in which you reside.

You will also need to take a medical examination to obtain a Health Certificate. The doctor should certify that you are in good health and have no contagious diseases. You will be tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, malaria, filariasis and syphilis. You will also have a chest X-ray to check there are no signs of tuberculosis.

If you are bringing your spouse or children to Kuwait, the same range of authenticated identification documents will be required for the Family Permit Visa application. The non refundable fee is paid in full on application. If you have a child under the age of 5, you will need to provide an up to date vaccination record showing that all necessary vaccinations have been given.

When you finally settle in Kuwait, keep your passport safe and in your possession. Do not allow your employer to hold your passport. If you change employment, make sure you have official approval and your visa is updated. Some politicians in Kuwait are looking to end an expat’s ability to change employment in the future.

You will be allowed to stay in Kuwait as long as you are working for your sponsoring employer, you keep out of any problems with the police, and your visa remains valid. If any of these terms are broken you will either be deported or will be expected to leave within thirty days.

Kuwait does not welcome applications to become a citizen. Even if you have children born in the state or marry a citizen, your application is likely to be refused.

In London, the Embassy of the State of Kuwait can be found at 2 Albert Gate London SW1X 7JU. The telephone number is 020 7590 3400.

In Washington DC, the Embassy of the State of Kuwait is located at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008. The telephone number is 202-966-0702. The Embassy’s opening hours are Monday to Friday 9.30am - 5pm, but during Ramadan the hours reduce to 10am-3pm.

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