By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Minister of Justice and head of the Public Authority for Manpower Jamal Al-Jalawi yesterday said the authority’s board decided to allow expatriates aged over 60 years who do not hold a university degree to renew their residencies by paying an annual fee of KD 250 and purchasing private health insurance, ending a problem that continued for well over a year.

The minister said the decision will be re-evaluated after one year to see the impact of its implementation. Children of Kuwaiti women, their husbands and holders of Palestinian travel documents are exempted from the decision. Under its previous board, the authority had decided to ban this category of expats, estimated at around 90,000, from renewing their residence permits and were asked to leave the country. But the decision was never implemented after it came under fire by MPs, human rights groups and the chamber of commerce.

The government’s legal department last year ruled that the original decision was unconstitutional and called for halting its implementation. Since then, authorities have been studying the best way to deal with these residents. Foreigners who are over 60 but hold university degrees are exempted from the decision. Head of Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mohammad Al-Saqer welcomed the decision and thanked authorities for resolving the dilemma and reconsidering the initial decision to ban expats without university degrees from renewing their residency when they reach 60 years of age.

He said the new decision conforms with Kuwait’s economic interests and is in line with its just positions, urging for cooperation from all sides to end visa trading, which is harming the national economy. Saqer also called for long-term plans to deal with the serious imbalance in the structure of the workforce and the population that is heavily tilted in favor of expats.