Despite its historical issues, Kuwait is still a popular destination with expats, primarily for purposes of employment rather than tourism. There are a number of things that you will need to consider if you are planning to visit Kuwait. Read on for information around the immigration regulations, as well as advice on how to obtain a visa.
Unless you are from a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) state, i.e. any of the Gulf states except for Iraq, you will need a visa in order to enter Kuwait. If you are from the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom (UK), Australia or America, you can obtain an entry visa which will be valid for three months. This is also the case for a number of other countries.
If you are a national of Israel or Ethiopia, you will not be permitted to enter Kuwait.
There are two basic types of visa:
• Visit visa
• Residence visa (valid for 10 years, but civil ID needs to be renewed annually)
Visit visas come in the following forms:
• Three-month visit visa (you will need a Kuwaiti sponsor)
• Three-month tourist visa
• Six-month business visa
• One-week transit visa
• Multiple-entry visa (Americans are eligible to obtain multiple-entry visit visas with a validity of 10 years and an unlimited number of entries; however, your sponsor will need to be the Ministry of Defence)
You can now apply online for an e-visa (singly-entry visit visa) at Kuwaiti consulates, and you will not necessarily have to attend an interview at your local diplomatic mission.
You can also apply for a family visit visa, if you have relatives in the country. You will need to supply:
• Proof of your relationship
• A copy of your valid passport
• A copy of the civil ID of your sponsor
• The latest salary certificate of your sponsor
You can get a free tourist/visit visa from the airport upon your arrival, which will allow a stay of three months. If you are visiting by land or sea, you will need a visa before you arrive.
The immigration authorities may require:
• Proof of return or onward travel
• A sponsor’s letter
• Your hotel confirmation
For British citizens applying for visit visas, whether on arrival or in advance, your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from your date of entry into Kuwait.
For residency visas, your passport should be valid for a minimum of two years. To live in Kuwait, anyone other than GCC citizens will need to apply for a Kuwait residence visa, or iqama. There are three main types of Kuwait residence visa:
• Work visa (see below)
• Domestic visa
• Dependent visa (you will be able to bring your family to Kuwait on this visa, but there are stringent restrictions in place – for example, on the level of your income – before you will be permitted to do so)
These types of visa all require a sponsor. An expat may sponsor his own residence, without needing an employer, as long as he has lived in Kuwait for a long time and has ample financial means.
You must contact the Department of Immigration if you want to extend your visa.
Note that you will be subject to a fine if you overstay the period of your visa.
The cost of the visa is around KWD 3 (around US$3), but you may also need to pay a processing fee, which will vary depending on your local consulate or embassy.
The processing time is likely to be one to three business days.
In order to work in Kuwait, you will need to have a work permit, unless you are a national of a GCC member state. Your employer will need to apply for a permit for you, and they will then be held fully responsible for you once you are in the country. This not only means that they will be held liable if you break the law, but also that they must open a bank account for you, find accommodation for you and so forth. You must have a sponsor in order to work in Kuwait, and this is usually, but not invariably, your employer.
In order to apply for a work permit, you / your employer will need to supply the following documents:
• Visa application form, and a security form completed by your sponsor
• Your passport and one copy
• Your sponsor’s passport and one photocopy
• Your sponsor’s civil ID and one photocopy
• Your sponsor’s work permit for private employees
• An up-to-date statement of salary from your sponsor’s employer
• Documented proof for family members
If your sponsor is not your employer, then their proof of monthly salary must show that they earn KWD 450 (US$1483) for a government job and KWD 650 (US$2142) if they work in the private sector.
Once your sponsor has received the work permit, you must take it to the local Kuwaiti embassy to get it endorsed (your sponsor can also get this ratified by the Ministry of the Interior), along with a medical certificate.
If you are already in the country on a visit visa, you can convert this to a work permit, but you will need to leave the country in order to do so.
You can also apply for a business visa, if you are entering the country for business meetings or other short-term business purposes. For this, you will need to have a sponsor – the hotel where you are staying can act as your sponsor. You will need to submit:
• A valid passport, plus an additional copy, with six months’ validity remaining
• Kuwait visit visa application with the security form filled out by your sponsor
• Details of your Kuwaiti sponsor or company
• A copy of your passport
• A copy of your sponsor’s signature, as registered for business purposes
• A copy of your sponsor’s letter of invitation for the business, stating the purpose of the visit
You can bring your pet into Kuwait, but it will need:
• A pet passport
• A microchip
• Up-to-date vaccinations
• A serological blood test (30 days following the vaccine against rabies)