There are two basic types of visas, a visit
visa and a residence visa.
Application for a Visit Visa
Visit visas and entry permits are valid for entry within 90
days of issue and then for a stay of up to 90 days only after
entry. A visit visa costs KD3/-. Entry permits are free.
A foreigner whose country has a visa abolition
treaty with Kuwait, i.e. a treaty permitting Kuwaitis to enter
their country without a visa, may be granted reciprocal rights
in Kuwait. These persons however may require an entry permit.
Entry permits are acquired in the same way and have the same
procedures as visit visas.
A visitor to Kuwait must be sponsored by a Kuwaiti
individual or company, or a resident foreigner who is a relative
of the visitor. However American citizens are sometimes given
visit visas without having a Kuwaiti sponsor. The visa application
is made by the sponsor who is responsible for the visitor
while he or she is in Kuwait.
To obtain a visit visa for a business visitor,
a Kuwaiti sponsor or company will require:
w visa application and security form completed by the sponsor
w copy of the visitor's passport
w copy of the sponsor's signature as registered for business
w copy of the letter of invitation from the sponsor to the business
visitor stating the purpose of the visit.
To obtain a visit visa for a relative, a resident foreigner
w visa application and security form completed by the sponsor
w copy of the visitor's passport
w original and copy of the sponsor's passport
w original and copy of the sponsor's civil ID
w original and copy of the sponsor's work permit (private sector
w recent salary certificate from the sponsor's employer
w authenticated proof of the family relationship.
Normally a visitor goes to a Kuwaiti embassy to have his visa
processed and his passport stamped before travelling to Kuwait.
However a Kuwaiti sponsor can use a faxed copy of the visitor's
passport to obtain the visa in Kuwait. The sponsor then faxes
a copy of the visa to the visitor and meets him at the airport
with the original visa. The sponsor deposits the visa papers
at a special counter in the arrivals hall and the visitor
must pick these up at a similar counter inside the immigration
area in order to complete entry formalities.
Either way, obtaining a visit visa takes about
two working days. Hotels can also arrange visit visas for
businessmen but they take about a week to do so, and, naturally
enough, expect the visitor to stay with them on arrival.
Extension of Visit
The fine for staying more than 30 days is KD10 a day. A visitor
whose visa has expired is not allowed to leave until he has
paid the fine, which must be paid at the Immigration Department
in Shuwaikh during government working hours and not at the
airport. Fines however may be paid a few days in advance and,
unless this is done, the flight out is invariably missed.
An expatriate may obtain two one-month extensions
to a visit visa or temporary residence provided application
is made to the Immigration Department before the visa has
While there is a move to relax the visit visa
process, the Ministry is considering a charge of KD 100 for
each additional month provided the entire visit period should
not exceed a year. Only the first month of visit will be free.
A transit visa, valid for a maximum stay of 7 days, can be
obtained from a Kuwaiti Consulate abroad or from a Port Authority
in Kuwait. The fee is KD2. The applicant must have a valid
visa for his next country of destination and, unless he is
working on a ship or airline, a confirmed onward ticket. International
truck drivers and their helpers may obtain multiple entry
A person in Kuwait on a visit visa
may not take up employment, for which he or she must have
a residence visa.
There is possibility that in the future expatriates
coming to Kuwait on a visit visa may be allowed to pursue
a career without having to leave the country and return on
new entry visa. However, expatriates who obtain a job in Kuwait
while on a visit may be required to pay KD 100 to avoide leaving
the country and returning on a work permit.
To live in Kuwait, expatriates other than GCC citizens must
have an iqama, i.e. a residence permit. A person discovered
without a valid iqama is fined and deported.
There are different types of iqama, which are allotted 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
of Interior website
The Interior Ministry's Information Department
has introduced a new service through the Ministry's
in which residency and visa forms will be available.
The website will also introduce forms for the Traffic
Department and Citizenship.
An awareness campaign through the media will be launched
to educate citizens and expatriates on how to finish
their papers at the Interior Ministry via the Internet.
Work Permits, no-Objection Certificates & Work Visas
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 full personal
details, and any other Kuwait entry visas. A private sector
sponsoring employer must then obtain a no-objection certificate
(NOC) from the General Administration of Criminal Investigation
at the Ministry of the Interior which he does 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 the employee will take, with a medical
certificate, to the Kuwaiti Embassy for endorsement. The Kuwaiti
Embassy will have received a copy of the work permit through
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Those sponsored by private
sector companies will require their NOCs and a copy of the
employer's authorised signatory as registered for business
purposes. A good conduct certificate, which is obtained from
the police in the last place of residence, may be required
for some nationalities. Applicants are also required to provide
a medical certificate stating that their general state of
health is good and that they are free of specific epidemic
diseases. The Embassy will then provide an entry visa for
Kuwait on submission of the application form.
If the employee is living in a country that has
no Kuwaiti Embassy then the sponsor 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
accepts employment, then, once the work permit and NOC are
ready, he must leave Kuwait and return on the entry visa the
sponsor obtains for him. This can be a short round trip to
Bahrain by air for the day.
Once he has entered Kuwait on the entry visa,
the employee is required to undergo medical tests and obtain
a fingerprint certificate before he can process his residence
The medical tests are taken at the Ports & Borders Health
Division, Gamal Abdul Nasser Street, in Shuwaikh, just west
of KISR but before the Chest Hospital is reached. Requirements
are passport, copy of NOC, a single photograph and a KD10
revenue stamp. Revenue stamps are available from post offices,
or from private traders outside the test area who charge a
small premium over the nominal value of the stamp.
To take the tests, 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 blood tests for serious infectious diseases, such
as AIDS, and a chest x-ray. A meningitis vaccination is also
given. It takes about a week for the results, which are given
in the form of a certificate from the Ministry of Public Health,
to come through. Persons found to be infected with epidemic
diseases are deported.
Expatriates employed in restaurants, hotels,
hospitals and food processing are required to go for health
check up every year and obtain the certificate. Also people
from the following countries will require annual check-ups:
Somalia, Thailand, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Eritrea, Senegal, Kenya,
Chad, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Mauritania, Benin, Niger,
Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Mauritius, Bhutan,
Zaire, Guinea, Togo, Mali, Seychelles, Ivory Coast, Cameroon,
Malawi, Malta, Guinea-Bissau, Fijji, Cuba, Haiti, Zambia,
Angola, Congo and Namobia.
Health Insurance Scheme
From April 10, 2000 Ministry of Health has imposed
health insurance on expatriates. No new residence is stamped
or old renewed unless the expatriates have paid the state
health insurance premiums, KD 50 for the head of the family,
KD 40 for the wife and KD 30 for every child below the age
of 18. The duration of expatriates' residence is linked directly
to the period covered by health insurance. One year health
insurance paid entitles only one year residence permit.
Though Kuwaiti nationals are exempted from the
scheme, foreign women married to Kuwaitis and children of
Kuwaiti women married to foreigners are required to pay KD
5 insurance premium.
The law stipulates that the employers pay the
premiums for their employees.
Privatisation of Health Insurance
According to a recent report the Health Ministry
has taken measures to privatise the health insurance scheme
currently enforced on the expatriates. The premium may be
reduced to KD 30 per year. The private health insurance scheme
will mainly provide health services for expatriates through
certain hospitals that will provide services under policies
issued by the private sector.
Kuwait Municipality has allocated land for three
health insurance hospitals in Jahra, Ahmadi and Farwaniya
to construct insurance hospitals and more hospitals will be
built in the future.
Fingerprinting & Security Clearance
There are four fingerprint departments where expatriates can
have their fingerprints registered and obtain security clearance.
These are located in Khaled Ibn Al Waleed Street, Sharq, near
the toy shops (for persons living in the City governorate),
Al-Ghazali Street, Farwaniya (for persons living in Hawalli
and Farwaniya governorates), Ahmadi and Jahra.
To have fingerprints registered, an employee's
passport, copy of the 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 always freelance typists around who will do so for a small
It takes about a week for the fingerprints to
be processed and the security clearance certificate to be
issued by the Criminal Evidence Department of the Ministry
of the Interior. The certificate is picked up from the same
Application for Residence
The actual application for an iqama is made at the Immigration
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 bring
along the following documents in the form of both originals
w declaration on the prescribed form completed and signed by
w work permit
w medical certificate
w security clearance (fingerprint) certificate
Four passport size photographs are also required. A maximum
of five years residence can be granted. The fee is KD10 per
year of residence, with an additional KD2 in the first 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 sponsor
and the employee.
After the initial residence has expired it can be renewed,
provided the expatriate intends to continue under the same
sponsor. Renewal is a fairly simple matter. Applications are
made at the jawazaat in Shuwaikh and the process should be
started a month before the expiry of the current residence.
Medical tests are not required on renewal. However
the employee's work permit must first be renewed with the
Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour. The application for
renewal must be supported by:
w the employee's passport and a copy of it,
w the renewed work permit, and
w a copy of the sponsor's signature as required for business
sponsor or his official 'mandoub' will attend at the jawazaat
to renew the employee's iqama. Where the employee does so
himself, he must have a letter from his sponsor authorising
him to do so.
Most offices in Kuwait have a mandoub, a representative whose
job is to process the 'official' paperwork of his company.
A mandoub is usually an expatriate Arab. His value depends
on his knowledge of the required forms and procedures and
his ability to push paperwork through government bureaucracy.
To deal with certain ministries the mandoub must be officially
Once he has obtained his own residency, a male
employee may sponsor his wife and children to live with him
in Kuwait. Permission to sponsor wife and children is granted
only to those who meet the minimum salary condition. The Ministry
of Interior lowered the minimum monthly salary requirement
for expatriates in both the private and government sectors
to KD.250 Expatriates of all nationalities are allowed to
sponsor their wives and children if they are earning minimum
KD.250 per month.
A working wife cannot sponsor her husband as
a dependent. Sons over 21 years cannot be sponsored as dependants,
though adult daughters and parents may. Dependent family members
may not work without transferring to a work visa under Kuwaiti
An entry visa for a dependent is obtained from
the jawazaat (Passport Office) 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
w sponsor's salary certificate
w copy of the sponsor's civil ID
w copy of the dependent's passport
w authenticated marriage certificate or child's birth certificate
The marriage certificate and child's birth certificate must
be authenticated by the sponsor's embassy and certified by
the Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Once they have entered the country the formalities
for a dependent's iqama (art 22) are similar to those for
a work visa. The dependent must be medically tested and fingerprinted.
The photo-graphs and documents required are the same as shown
above except for the work permit. The sponsor's declaration
is an undertaking by the family supporter that he will maintain
The residence fees for each dependent (wife or
child) are KD100 in the first year and KD10 a year thereafter.
However the fee for a parent is KD200 a year. These charges
apply to all expatriate sponsors whether they are working
in the public or private sectors.
Expatriates who are in Kuwait on a visit visa may transfer
to a dependent visa without having to leave the country and
New Born Baby
When a baby is born to expatriates in Kuwait, the parents
must obtain a dependent's iqama for the child. There is no
minimum salary requirement and the father of child born in
Kuwait can sponsor his infant's residence irrespective of
his salary level.
But first the parents must obtain a birth certificate
for the child. The hospital where the child was born will
provide a notification of the birth. This must be taken to
the registry of births in the governorate in which the birth
took place to obtain the official birth certificate. The hospital
will provide the address. The additional documents required
to obtain the birth certificate include: application form
duly comp-leted, photocopies of parents' passport and civil
IDs, and authenticated marr-iage contract. The birth certificate
is usu-ally ready to be picked up at the registry after about
a week. The fee is KD10.
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.
To obtain residence the baby's name must first
be added to the parent's passport or a separate passport must
be obtained for the infant. To obtain a passport for the child,
different emba-ssies have different rules, but most non-Arabic
embassies require a certified translation of the child's birth
certificate while some require the birth 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 one of its parent's passport, the procedures
for obtaining the child's residence are the same as for any
dependent. An infant born in Kuwait however is not required
to undergo medical tests and fingerprinting. The documents
required include the originals and copies of the father's
passport, the civil IDs of both parents, marriage certificate,
work permit and letter of employment indicating salary. The
application for the infant's residence must be made within
60 days of the birth to avoid a fine of KD 200.
Where the father works in the private sector,
the administrative fee for the new-born infant is KD100 in
the first year for the first and second child, and KD200 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 subsequent child is KD100 in the first year.
The actual residence fee is KD10 a year.
If an expatriate's passport expires before his
residence visa runs out then his iqama can be transferred
to the new passport.
When an expatriate applies to his Embassy for
a new passport, his old passport will probably be cancelled.
He should make sure that the pages containing his residence
visa are not stamped 'cancelled', otherwise he may find that
he has to apply for a new residence rather than being allowed
to transfer his residence from his old to his new passport.
Once he has obtained his new passport, an expatriate should
take it along with the old passport to the jawazaat in Shuwaikh,
where a typed application is presented. The required supporting
w copies of all documents used to obtain the original residence
w letter from sponsor
w old passport
Four photographs are also required. Provided everything is
in order the iqama may be stamped in the new passport there
Where the validity of his passport has been extended
and his residence is still valid the expatriate need do nothing.
TRANSFERRING TO ANOTHER SPONSOR
An expatriate can usually transfer his residence
to a new sponsor provided his current sponsor is agreeable.
For government employees, domestic servants and dependants,
there are few restrictions on transfers between sponsors in
the same sector.
However the rules governing the right to transfer
to a new sponsor in the private sector are complex. Transfers
are usually restricted to the 'same sector'. For example,
a teacher may normally only transfer to a new job as a teacher
and may not transfer to a sponsor in industry. Domestic workers
can transfer to the private farming sector under the same
sponser after oneyear's residence in Kuwait. However. domestic
workers desiring to change their '20 residence' to '18 residence'
should cancel their residence, leave the country and return
on a new work permit. But a person on a domestic servant's
visa may not transfer to an 18-visa until five years have
elapsed since he or she obtained residence. And a person on
a 'project' visa, i.e. someone who was hired by a private
sector firm for a particular government project, may not normally
transfer to private sector after the project is completed
but could transfer to another government sponsor.
According to new transfer rules which were introduced
in April 2001, expatriates working in the private sector are
permitted to transfer residence to another sponsor after one
year with their current sponsor and his consent. The transfer
fee, payable to the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour
(MSA&L), is KD10 plus KD2 for the new work permit. This
fee is additional to the KD10 per year payable to the Ministry
of the Interior for the new iqama. An employee of a liquidated
company, or of a company that has merged with another, may
also transfer without paying this fee, and no matter how short
a time he has been with his current employer.
But before he can change his sponsor a resident
expatriate must obtain a 'letter of release' from his current
sponsor. This letter is used by the new sponsor to obtain
a new work permit for the expatriate. Where a current sponsor
refuses to provide the 'letter of release', the matter can
be taken up with the Labour Department in the Ministry of
Social Affairs &Labour. Where the Department finds that
the employer has no valid reason for withholding the release,
or finds that the employer has broken terms in the labour
contract or has violated the Labour Law, the Department may
sanction the transfer irrespective of the current sponsor's
Where residence is transferred, the expatriate
does not need to leave the country and come back again, nor
does he have to be medically tested. Otherwise formalities
to obtain the new iqama are similar to those for obtaining
residence in the first place. Once these have been completed,
the old iqama is cancelled and the new iqama stamped in the
passport. The fee is KD10 a year and there is no rebate for
any unexpired years of the old residence.
An expatriate who is not allowed to transfer
his residence under the regulations may instead, if he wishes
to change sponsor, resign his job, leave Kuwait and return
on a fresh work permit. He or she does not need to return
to his/her own country but can go to any other state in the
New set of proposed charges on visa transfers
and work permits to be imposed on expats in the private sector
was submitted to the Cabinet in May 2001. The Ministry of
Social Affairs and Labour will impose these charges after
the Cabinet approval. The Council of Ministers is likely to
approve additional charges on expatriates for visa transfers
and work permits to subsidise the employment of Kuwaiti manpower
in the private sector. According to proposals the term required
for free- transfer may be increased to three years. Expat
workers wishing to transfer their residence anytime before
three years may have to pay KD 250. The charges for issuing
a work permit may be increased to KD 50 per year instead of
the current KD 10, and the annual renewal may cost KD 5 instead
of the current KD 2 charge. Expats sponsoring themselves under
Article 19 may have to pay KD 100 per year.
Besides work, dependent and domestic iqamas,
expatriates may obtain other kinds of residence, such as a
student residence, or a three month residence for medical
An expatriate may be granted temporary residence
under article 14 of the immigration regulations in special
cases where he does not need or cannot get ordinary residence.
This allows him to stay for up to one year. Though it is usually
only given to visitors with personal emergencies such as illness.
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 case. In
mid 1998 the Immigration Department announced that it would
consider granting two month temporary residences to the immediate
relatives (father, mother and sisters but not brothers) of
resident expatriates who are in Kuwait on visit visas (which
cannot otherwise be extended). The cost of a temporary residence
is KD10. 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
Expatriate employees of ministries and some other government
institutions must obtain exit permits before they can leave
A residence visa is cancelled if the holder is absent abroad
for a continuous period of six months. The only exceptions
are for those who (a) are studying abroad, (b) are receiving
necessary treatment abroad, or (c) are required by virtue
of their work to be abroad, 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 applicant's
residential area. An official letter from the child's college
stating that he or she is studying there, authenticated by
the Kuwaiti embassy in the foreign 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.
Other documents needed include copies of passport and civil
ID plus four passport sized photographs. The permission is
given in the form of a letter.
The permission must be shown to the immigration
officer both on departure from Kuwait and on return. The permission
is valid for the remainder of the holder's residence and can
be used for several entries and exits. It does not need to
be renewed until residence is renewed.
- TIME JOBS
To take up a part-time job, a government employee
must get permission from his employer, i.e. ministry or other
public body. Expatriates working in the private sector must
get permission from the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour.
Permission from that ministry is obtained from
the assistant under-secretary's office in the Ministries Complex
in Kuwait City on Mondays and Wednesdays only. The applicant
must submit a letter requesting permission, which must state
the place of work, the monthly salary and the reason why a
part-time job is needed. This letter must be supported by
a letter of permission from the applicant's sponsor plus copies
of the applicant's civil ID, passport and current salary certificate.
The permission, if granted, is valid for one year but it can
be renewed annually.
Once an expatriate has obtained his residence
then he must obtain a civil identity (ID) card (bitaqa-almadiniyah
or bitaqa for short), no matter what type of residence he
is on. Civil ID cards are issued by PACI, the Public Authority
for Civil Information. After his first card has been issued,
the holder's civil ID number remains the same even if he changes
his sponsor or leaves and comes back several years later on
a different residence visa.
The civil ID card shows the holder's civil number,
full name, date of birth (which is also included in the algorithm
for the ID number), local address, blood group, sponsor's
name, type of visa, etc, and date of expiry of the card. When
ever the card expires or an expatriate changes sponsor, renews
his residence or changes his address, his civil ID card must
be amended accordingly.
Whether applying for the first time or renewing or replacing
a civil ID card, four photographs, showing the face without
spectacles, are always required for those over 11 years of
age. Photographs are not needed for elderly Kuwaiti females.
To register for a civil ID for the first time, the documents
w copy of passport pages showing personal details and residence
w security clearance (fingerprint) form (those over 16 years)
w original birth certificate (if born in Kuwait)
w blood group certificate (those over 5 years)
w proof of house address (e.g., rental agreement and rent receipts)
w declaration signed by sponsor
For a first time domestic servant's civil ID all the above
documents, except the first, are needed. For the first civil
ID of a baby born in Kuwait, just a copy of the baby's birth
certificate, and a copy of the sponsor's passport (showing
personal details, residence stamp and the addition of the
baby) or the baby's own passport (showing personal details
and residence stamp), are required.
When changing or renewing a civil ID, an expatriate,
no matter what type of visa he is on, only needs to submit
a copy of his passport (showing personal details and the residence
stamp) and his sponsor's declaration. To have an amended card
issued following a change of address, the current card plus
proof of the new address (e.g., rental agreement) must be
submitted. To replace a lost card, a photocopy of the lost
card and the expatriate's passport is required.
First time applicants on a work or dependent's
visa must go in person to the PACI office in South Surra,
as must all those who wish to replace a lost card. Those on
a work or dependent's visa who are renewing or changing their
civil IDs, and first time applicants for a domestic servant's
civil ID, and applicants for the first civil ID of a baby
born in Kuwait, can buy the application form and special envelopes
from ?Express-Envelope? machines located in Coop supermarkets
(250fils), follow the instructions and submit their applications
in these special machines.
Charges, Time Limits & Penalties
The charge for a civil ID card is KD2 when it is first issued
and each time it is renewed. The charge is paid when the card
is collected. There is a fee of KD10 to replace a lost card.
An expatriate must apply for a civil ID card
within 30 days of getting his residency, and must renew his
card within 30 days of renewing his residency. For an expatriate
child born in Kuwait, the time limit for first registration
is 60 days from the date of birth. In all cases the penalty
for late applications is a flat fine of KD100 irrespective
of the length of the delay, though in practice PACI only levy
a one-off fine of KD20.
Collection of Civil ID Card
It takes about 10 days for a civil ID card to be processed.
Expatriates can ascertain the status of cards under process
through PACI's computerised telephone answering system by
calling 889988 (1for replies in Arabic and 2 for replies in
English) and keying in their civil ID number (for renewals)
or the serial number on the outside of the envelope in which
the application was submitted.
The civil ID card can only be picked up in person
at the PACI offices in South Surra from an electronic dispensing
machine. The actual machine to be used is ascertained by dialling
the above telephone numbers. Two dinars plus the old civil
ID card (if held) must be fed into the machine to obtain the