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Visas and Permits for Expats in Kuwait

Sponsorship System for Visitors

All visitors need a visa or entry permit to enter Kuwait. Nationals of other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are exempt from this rule, however. They may enter and even live in Kuwait without having to undergo any particular formalities.

Kuwait’s immigration system is based on sponsorship. Visitors must always be sponsored by a Kuwaiti national or company while they are staying in Kuwait. Sponsors are responsible for the visitor and liable if the visitor violates any regulations. In case of expatriate workers, the sponsor is simply the employer in Kuwait.

Visitor Visas for Short Stays

Kuwaiti visitor visas are valid for a stay of up to 30 days. Overstaying this duration will result in a fine of 10 KWD per day, which must be paid before leaving the country. Visitor visas are usually issued within two working days and currently cost 3 KWD.

 

Nationals from 70 countries, including the US, EU member states except Croatia, Australia, and Japan, are granted entry visas upon arrival in Kuwait. If you belong to this group, you do not need to apply for a visa before travelling to Kuwait. You can check whether you are among these nationalities on the Embassy Finder website.

 

Those who are in Kuwait on a visitor visa may not take up any sort of employment. Working in Kuwait requires a work permit and a residency visa.

 

Securing Your Long-Term Stay — Work Permits and Residency Visas

In order to live and work in Kuwait, expatriates have to obtain a residency visa (iqama). This visa can only be issued on the basis of a valid employment offer from a private company or a Kuwaiti government organisation. The Kuwaiti employer then applies for the iqama on behalf of the expatriate employee.

 

You are then issued a so-called “No Objection Certificate” (NOC) with which you can enter Kuwait. You will be issued the actual residency visa once you have entered Kuwait. In order for the residency visa to be issued, an extensive medical certificate is necessary, including testing for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.

 

Once the residency visa is issued, you can apply for a Kuwaiti Civil ID (bitaqa-madaniyah). This application has to be submitted within 30 days of receiving the residency visa.

 

Dependent Visas — For Expats with Family in Kuwait

Once he has successfully obtained residency, a male expat can act as a sponsor for his wife and children to live with him while he is working in Kuwait. This possibility, however, is restricted by certain salary requirements — only expatriates who earn at least 650 KWD per month (450 KWD if you’re working in the public sector) may bring their families with them.

 

The procedure for dependent visas is similar to that of residency visas. The actual visa is issued upon arrival in Kuwait. Furthermore, dependents have to undergo the same medical examinations.

 

In a patriarchal twist, female expatriates cannot sponsor their husbands. Sons above the age of 21 cannot be sponsored, either, although this rule does not apply to adult daughters and parents. Also, any dependent who would like to take up employment in Kuwait will need a separate work visa with a Kuwaiti sponsor.