Despite its historical problems, Kuwait is still an attractive choice for many expats, particularly those who are working in the oil industry. With more than 8% of the world’s oil reserves, Kuwait remains a powerful player in this sector. However, the financial sector, business and export also attract expat personnel.
Although the rate of unemployment is low, the government is starting to prioritize jobs for local workers, which does mean that the job market is becoming more competitive, but there are still opportunities, including some high salaried positions. Around two thirds of the labor force in the country are from overseas. However, obtaining citizenship is difficult, so it is likely that your employment will remain relatively short term. We will look below at your best options.
Kuwait operates a quota system and may limit work permits to a certain number per company. In 2016, the government began to ban any foreign worker over 50 from working in the public sector.
In order to work in Kuwait, you will need to have a work permit unless you are a national of a Gulf Cooperation Council (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. Thus you must have a sponsor in order to work in Kuwait: this is usually, but not invariably, your employer.
In order to apply for a permit, you/your employer will need to supply the following documents:
• visa application form and a security form completed by your sponsor • passport and 1 copy • your sponsor’s passport and 1 photocopy • your sponsor’s civil ID and 1 photocopy • your sponsor’s work permit for private employees • an up to date statement of salary from the sponsor’s employer • documented proof for family members
If your sponsor is not your employer, then their proof of 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.
Since the country has this sponsorship system, it can make it difficult to change jobs since your initial employer is so intricately involved in the bureaucratic side of your life. In order to avoid having to go through the permit system again, and experience a hiatus in which you are effectively prevented from working, your employer may issue with a ‘no objection certificate,’ basically allowing you to work for someone else.
You will not pay taxes: Kuwait is one of those countries where you will be exempt, even if you are an expat. However, this is somewhat offset by the fact that, as an expat, you will not be able to access public services such as healthcare: you will need private insurance, for example.
The oil industry is obviously the biggest sector here so if you have a background and qualifications in engineering in this field it is well worth exploring employment options.
TEFL is a good option here and posts come up for highly qualified teachers, mainly in private language schools, but you may also find vacancies within the industrial sector, too. A degree is preferred.
Speaking Modern Standard Arabic is an advantage although most international companies operate in English.
Working hours may vary depending on the sector that you are in, but have recently been restricted to 12 hours per day. Typically, they run from 8.30 – 9 a.m. – 4.30 – 5 p.m. The number of working hours per week varies between 40 – 48. You may find that working hours are reduced to 6 per day during Ramadan but this might apply only to Islamic personnel.
Friday is a traditional day for prayer, so you will find that your ‘weekend’ is either Thursday/Friday or Friday/Saturday (some international companies prefer the latter, since Thursday is a working day in the rest of the world).
You have the right to 35 days of paid annual leave in your first year (this has recently increased) provided that you have completed at least 6 months with your employer. Kuwait also has 9 national holidays.
If you are pregnant you will be entitled to paid maternity leave for 70 days.
Note that the minimum wage you need to earn in order to be allowed to sponsor dependents, if they are to relocate with you, has recently been raised from KWD 450 (US$1,481) to KWD 500 (US$1,646) per month.
Once you have been sponsored yourself, you can then act as a sponsor to your spouse (and other dependents), but see above for minimum salary requirements. Spouses will be able to join you in Kuwait if you are earning enough but they will need to apply separately for their own work permits.
Speculative applications made to companies directly are common and may prove to be a reliable way of finding work.
There are a number of recruitment agencies which cover work in the Gulf, including Kuwait. Local networking is also likely to be effective.
It might be a good idea to have an Arabic copy of a CV/resume, but a standard format is acceptable given that you are likely to be dealing with international companies.
Be aware that Kuwait is a strict Islamic society and does not adhere to Western cultural norms. Same sex relationships between men are criminalized. Women and Shia Muslims may also find that they face substantial discrimination. You may therefore find yourself confronting these attitudes in interviews.
It is a good idea to have any certificates or diplomas apostilled. Arabic translations may be necessary if you are applying for work outside the international employment community.
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 signature from your sponsor, as registered for business purposes
• A copy of your letter of invitation from your sponsor, stating the purpose of the visit
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer "Moratorium" or is it "Full underwriting" and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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If you’re planning on renting property in Kuwait, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the right place. There are options ranging from apartments in tall buildings to compounds full of single-family homes with shared amenities, like pools and playgrounds. Expats from the States and the EU may be pleasantly surprised by how spacious Kuwaiti homes are.
Typically, leases in Kuwait are signed for a period of one year, and can be terminated early if you give 30 days’ notice. You’ll need to pay a security deposit of a month’s rent, and you may need to pay rent three to six months in advance. If you use a realtor to find your accommodation, you’ll be expected to pay them commission – usually equivalent to half of one month’s rent.
You’ll need your passport in order to sign your lease. If you’re living as an expat in Kuwait, you’ll have a sponsor – usually arranged by your company to get you your work visa – and landlords often require a sponsor to be the principal party on the lease.
Homes are available both furnished and unfurnished. However, even if you choose a property that is furnished, you may find that it doesn’t meet Western standards. Ask if they have squat toilets or western-style ones, and check for both air conditioner and heating.
Expats who are looking for properties to rent can start by checking out online listings on Kuwait Real Estate Directory and Mourjan.com. Alternatively, you could talk to realtors at Century 21, or other expat-friendly real estate agents. Word-of-mouth can also be quite helpful in finding recently vacated properties.
Kuwait is a small country and, while prices will vary slightly based on geographic area, the majority of unfurnished accommodation will fall in the following ranges:
• A one-bedroom apartment will cost an average of $750-$1,000/month
• A three-bedroom apartment will cost an average of $1,500-$1,800/month
• A three-bedroom villa (private home with amenities) will cost an average of $2,000-$2,300/month
Furnished options, which are rarer than unfurnished ones, will cost 20%-30% more. Utilities may or may not be included in the rent.
If you’re planning on starting the rental process, keep in mind a few Kuwait-specific tips:
• Check to see whether the property comes with covered parking – Kuwait’s public transit isn’t well-developed, and having secure parking will make life a lot easier
• Remember that Kuwait continues to have a construction boom, so see whether any new projects are going on around the property you’re interested in – constant noise and dust can turn your beautiful new rental into a frustrating place to live
• Look up the location of the nearest mosque – the 5 a.m. call to prayer may disrupt your mornings if it’s close
• The harissa, or building supervisor, is responsible for doing small jobs around the building, which can include taking out trash, washing residents’ cars, and arranging fixes in the apartments – you’ll be expected to pay him each month for his work; 5 Kuwaiti dinar, or $15, is normal
Up until 2015, foreigners couldn’t own property in Kuwait. With expats accounting for 70% of the population, the government previously restricted property ownership to citizens, in an attempt to reduce the number of people moving to Kuwait and not planning to work there.
Now, expats can buy property, but must meet strict conditions. They must have never been convicted of any crime in Kuwait; they must be able to prove they have sufficient income earned in Kuwait to afford the property; and the property must be less than 1,000 square meters and used as a private residence only. Buying property in Kuwait does not confer residency status. In fact, if you lose your employment and thus your residency in Kuwait, you must sell the property.
As a result of the strict regulations, as well as the general sentiment in Kuwait of not supporting foreigners’ property rights, even with the new laws, many expats end up renting rather than trying to buy property.
But if you’re set on buying property in Kuwait, you’ll need to find a place first. You can use a realtor (again, Century 21 is popular with expats) or explore independently to find properties for sale.
Once you’ve found a property you’d like to buy, you’ll need to find a lawyer and have them help you submit an application to the Ministry of Justice. You’ll need to provide your passport, proof of employment, and your tax information, along with the application. If they approve, they’ll pass your application to the Interior Ministry to give final approval.
Mortgages are available to expats from Kuwaiti banks, though the application process isn’t well-documented, as the laws allowing expats to purchase property are relatively new and constantly changing.
It will be your responsibility, as the buyer, to pay all legal fees and survey fees for the property. You will bring proof of payment and the sales document to the Expropriation Department in Kuwait City and receive your real estate title.
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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QUICK LINK: Kuwait health insurance
Due to a decrease in oil revenues, and thus a decrease in the economy overall, the Kuwaiti government is targeting expats financially and some of the advantages that used to be in place for overseas workers have been removed altogether or scaled back. Access to the public healthcare system for visiting expats is one of the benefits which may no longer apply in some cases, and you should be aware that health insurance for expat workers is currently in the process of being further overhauled.
It is mandatory for expat workers in Kuwait to have health insurance of some form. You will not be permitted to have an entry visa for the country unless you have health insurance, which will probably need to be private.
At present, you can only access the public system if you have a civil ID card: this is only issued to those who have legal residence permits. If you are a visitor, you will either need to have comprehensive cover or will need to pay out of pocket.
However, the health insurance system is currently undergoing revision and the Kuwaiti government is planning to instate a government-run health insurance scheme for expats, available through the Health Insurance Hospitals Company (known as Dhaman). When this is in place, you will be able to register with this new one-stop provider.
Only people with a legal residence permit are permitted to access public healthcare. If this applies to you, you should be able to use the state system. If you are on a visitor’s visa, you will not, and you must instead have private health insurance.
However, you should be aware that the Kuwaiti authorities are moving towards a ban on expats using public hospitals, with some very limited exceptions. It is not practical to put such a ban in place at the moment, since private hospitals are not yet sufficient to cope with the volume of expats in the country, and the Dhaman hospitals are not yet fully operational. However, if the situation for expats is unclear in your particular region, consult your local clinic or hospital.
Kuwait has one of the region’s oldest and most developed financial services industries, having started in 1941 with British investors setting up the first national bank. There are now eleven domestic commercial banks in Kuwait, which include five Islamic banks and the National Bank of Kuwait which is the largest bank in the state. Twelve foreign banks have been established in Kuwait following a law amendment which allowed this to happen. All banks fall under the supervision of the Kuwait Central Bank.
The government in Kuwait established the Kuwait Currency Board in 1960, which launched the Kuwaiti dinar the following year. A new Kuwaiti dinar was launched following the 1990 Gulf War, so that stolen currency became invalid.
The Kuwaiti dinar is today the world’s highest valued unit of currency. It is divided into 1,000 fils. The legal tender consists of notes in ¼ dinar, ½ dinar, 1 dinar, 5 dinars, 10 dinars and 20 dinars. Coins are available in 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 fils.
ATMs are plentiful and available 24 hours a day. Be careful to check the charges that may be attached to your card if it if the ATM does not belong to the same financial institution that issued your card.
US dollars and British pounds are easy to exchange at the banks. Although banks will have varied hours, most will be open from 8am to 3pm from Sunday to Thursday. They will be closed on Friday and Saturday.
It is common for banks in Kuwait to offer a chip and pin debit or credit card connecting to the VISA or Mastercard system, and the cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. Many businesses will add a 2% charge to the cost of the goods if you pay by credit card, so it is best to ask about this before making payment. However, some retailers offer a discount to customers using a specific bank’s debit card.
The economy in Kuwait is reliant on its oil industry, which has faced major challenges since the 2014 decline in oil prices. The oil industry provides 80% of the government’s income, while low energy prices and the oil companies boost the private sector earnings. The government’s determination to diversify the economy is at the heart of its recent education reforms.
The Kuwait Stock Exchange was established in 1983. It followed the collapse of the informal Souk Al Manakh stock exchange, where total debts of $26bn meant all but one financial institution in the state became insolvent.
The 1990 Gulf War was the next big shock to the financial system. Part of the post war recovery included recapitalisation of banks, establishment of a new Kuwait dinar, and invalidating stolen currency.
The banking sector in Kuwait was impacted by the 2007-08 global economic crisis, and in response the Central Bank of Kuwait and other institutions tightened up the regulatory framework under the Capital Markets Law. Some of these laws have been relaxed as the banks expanded their asset base and increased lending, but the capital markets sector remains under the vigilance of the Capital Markets Authority and a revised corporate governance law was implemented in 2013. By law, banks were required to improve their financial reporting and to invest in their risk management departments.
Kuwait signed a tax compliance agreement with the US in April 2015. Laws passed in the US required foreign banks to identify accounts controlled by US citizens, green card holders and US owned companies, and pass the details to the US Inland Revenue Agency (IRS). This was to ensure US individuals, regardless of where they live, correctly declare all their global earnings and assets. The agreement between Kuwait and the US means the Ministry of Finance will receive relevant account details from all the banks in Kuwait, and will pass these to the US IRS.
The current account, or cheque account, will normally be offered with the range of services expected in the US and UK. A chip and pin debit or ATM card, online banking services, standing orders and regular statements would form part of an essential account package. Unlike some European countries, cheques are still used in Kuwait, so banks offer cheque books with these accounts.
Most banks will only allow their accounts to be opened by individuals meeting a minimum income level. This will be clearly set out in their terms and conditions. If you are earning a high income, you may be offered a premium account, which will have a number of specified perks attached.
Some banks offer tailored services to expats. These can provide additional benefits such as free online money transfers to your home country and free travel insurance. Website information, as well as branch and telephone services, will be available in English. Banks frequently offer some accounts only to Kuwait’s citizens and others are designated for expats.
Accounts can often be opened using just your civil identification. The address you use must be correct as all correspondence will be sent there.
Banks offer a range of savings products. A savings account will be held in Kuwaiti dinars, often with interest accrued monthly but paid quarterly. There will often be a minimum deposit balance which must be maintained to accrue interest without penalty. There may be penalties for withdrawing some of the funds before a specified date. The terms and conditions for the account should be shown clearly on the website and in the notes which accompany an application form.
Asset management services are available via the banks in Kuwait. However, be aware that they will be selling their own products or those of business partners, and this may not be the right choice for you and your circumstances. Ensure you visit at least two or three providers before committing your funds.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them "on demand" whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic - your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up - ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution - many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine - but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent - many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money - such as the proceeds of a property - a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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Kuwait is an attractive destination for many expats, particularly those who are working in the oil industry. If you are heading out to this Gulf State to work, you may be wondering how easy it will be to communicate.
Kuwait’s official language is Modern Standard Arabic, which is mainly used for written and official communication. The vernacular is Kuwaiti Arabic, a form of Gulf Arabic (also known locally as Khaliji, Khamseh, and Al Hasaa) which has loan words from Indian, English, Persian, Turkish, and Italian. It is said to be close to Classical Arabic.
If you are planning to work in the country it is a good plan to have your CV translated into Arabic. Other languages spoken in the country include other forms of Arabic but, due to the prevalence of expats from overseas, also include:
• Farsi: the official language of Iran
• Urdu: the official language of Pakistan
• Tagolog: the official language of the Philippines
However, English is widely spoken in Kuwait. It is compulsory in schools. Many international companies use English as their lingua franca and you should experience few difficulties in the workplace. Note that around 70% of the Kuwaiti population is from overseas, resulting in a wide diversity of languages which necessitate the use of a lingua franca. Some Kuwaiti media is in English and road signs are bilingual.
It is, however, both polite and practical to learn a few useful phrases in Arabic in case you encounter anyone who is not English-speaking.
If you want to take the opportunity to learn Arabic while you are in the country, you will find plenty of provisions. There are a number of Arabic learning centres, including ones which offer virtual provision as well as face to face language training, at a variety of levels from brushing up your existing Arabic (perhaps learning the local dialect) to starting from scratch. Remember that you will need to start by learning the Standard Modern Arabic alphabet first. There are also a number of universities in Kuwait and it is worth checking with your local institution to see if they offer language provision. Kuwait University, for instance, offers courses in Arabic and Arabic literature.
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is a good option for employment here and posts come up for highly qualified teachers, mainly in private language schools, but you may also find vacancies within the industrial sector, too.
It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as business and finance.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. If you are highly qualified, you can expect to earn in the region of US$2600 – 4000 per month: Kuwait is one of the higher paying countries when it comes to language training and it is sometimes possible to obtain a post at a university.
In order to work in Kuwait, you will need to have a work permit unless you are a national of a Gulf Cooperation Council (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. If you are employed by a language school, consult them with regard to your work permit.
The Kuwaiti state insists on the mandatory education of children from 6 – 14 and offers free education through to the secondary level. However, state education here is only for Kuwaiti children, so if you are an expat and bringing your children with you, you will need to enrol them in the private sector.
You will find plenty of choice: due to the above policy and the large number of expats in the country, there are a number of private international schools. Some of these are specifically for the nationality specified, but others are open to all international students and to local Kuwaitis, who may wish to take advantage of the high standard of education in these establishments.
You may wish to consider the British School of Kuwait, English School Fahaheel, Kuwait English School, New English School and The English School. Some of these date back to the 1950s and 1960s. As their names suggest, all of these schools are English-speaking and the curriculum follows the UK National Curriculum.
You should be aware that British curriculum schools here are aware of OFSTED, but only Ministry of Defence schools are officially inspected by OFSTED abroad. Thus any claim to be ‘OFSTED inspected’ should be examined: it may mean that the school has asked an OFSTED inspector to come out on a private basis. If this is the case, it is a positive thing: the school will have voluntarily opened itself up to OFSTED inspection.
It is also advisable to look closely into exam results, as some of these statistics have been massaged by Kuwaiti schools in the past. As with all private education, asking the expat community may prove helpful as word of mouth recommendations can be very valuable. The British Council can assist with information regarding local schools, too.
Many American expats send their children to the American schools, such as the American International School and the American Creativity Academy, which offer the International Baccalaureate, and also the American School of Kuwait and the Universal American School.
There is also a French Lycée offering the French baccalaureate and a number of bilingual schools, which are worth considering if your child is bilingual.
Your child will need a BCG vaccination and a general health examination, which is required by the School Health Section of the Ministry: you can obtain this by taking your child to a government health clinic. The Ministry also requires that all children study Arabic and if you are a Muslim you will have compulsory Islamic Studies lessons. Other documentation may be required on enrolment but will vary from school to school: it is a good idea to take your child’s birth certificate with you, and the school is likely to request school reports as well.
Private education in the country is not cheap. School fees will vary from school to school, but an average sample towards the upper end of the range is:
• early years: US$8500 per annum
• middle years: US$12500 per annum
• later schooling: US$14500 per annum
Most schools will allow you to pay in instalments, but some require the bulk of the first year’s fees upfront. You may also have to pay admission and enrolment fees, and read the small print carefully for any extras which are not included in the main fees, such as transport. Some schools may also charge assessment fees but this does not necessarily mean that your child will be accepted. Some companies offer school fees as part of your employment package but others do not, so read contracts carefully.
Expats report that Kuwaiti schools are often friendly places and the different nationalities work well together, although there can be cultural clashes, particularly between Kuwaiti boys – raised in a traditional Islamic society – and Western girls. Friendships can be misconstrued, so be aware that your children are being educated in a non-Western culture, even though they may be in an English-speaking environment.
Some schools can become overcrowded, but generally class sizes in the private sector are small. Education is of a good standard, particularly at primary level: expats report that students may do better in secondary education in their home nation. In this case, you may want to consider looking at boarding schools in your home country rather than putting your child through private education in Kuwait.
The academic year in Kuwait is from September to June. The school week runs from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday/Saturday as the weekend (remember, this is an Islamic country and Fridays are designated holy days). The school day normally runs from 7.30 am - 3 pm but extra-curricular classes and clubs are popular and these may take place in the afternoon.