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Expats struggle to obtain driving licenses in Kuwait

By Ghadeer Ghloum & Faten Omar


KUWAIT: One of the biggest challenges that expats face in Kuwait is obtaining a driving license. Expats can only get a driving license if they adhere to a list of rules, including having a university degree, drawing a monthly salary of at least KD 600 and residing in Kuwait for at least two years. The process of obtaining a driving license in Kuwait is expensive and time-consuming. Besides the strict regulations, expats must take driving lessons from a certified driving school, which can be costly, especially since they may need to be tested more than once. Drivers must also pass a series of theoretical and practical tests before being able to apply for a driving license.

Kuwait Times spoke to a number of expats to get a closer look at their struggles in obtaining a Kuwaiti driving license. Abdul Wahab Hossam, 19, who is studying at a university in Kuwait, said he has been trying for a year to obtain a driving license to make his life easier, to no avail. “I have been trying to get a driver’s license through the university, but this facility was suspended for non-Kuwaiti university students. Then I tried to get it through my job, and of course, it is necessary to wait for three months to have a work visa. Still, the requirements are difficult. A salary of KD 600 for a 19-year-old isn’t an option,” he told Kuwait Times.

“Even after graduating and maybe five years later, you will be destined not to have a driving license. There is no alternative, as public transportation in Kuwait is bad,” he pointed out, adding he even looked for a driving job to get the license, but drivers must have a license from their country of origin. “And of course, even if you fulfill all the miraculous requirements, wasta is required to pass the driving test,” Hossam rued.

Another college student said obtaining a Kuwaiti driving license can be frustrating due to the ambiguity and lack of transparency in the regulations and procedures. “Expats who study at university used to be granted a driving license until they graduated, but recently, the rule was changed,” he said.

Another student said that an expat has to have a certain job title such as doctor, engineer or businessperson to obtain a driving license, which means this option is not available for everyone. He said he goes to university by taxi, which is very expensive for him, as it costs him around KD 3 daily. “I hope to get a driving license when I graduate so I can go to work and save money and time,” he said.

In 2022, more than 10,000 expatriates were informed about the cancelation of their driving licenses after they were deemed to have failed to meet the requirements for obtaining a driving license. Like many other countries in the world, Kuwait experiences traffic congestion during peak hours due to several reasons, which has led to continuous cancellations and placing a “block” on thousands of licenses of expats. Hassan Adli, 29, whose license was revoked after he changed his job title, said: “Life is not fair. You leave your old job for a reason and are forced to get another one that is not as good as the old one just to feed your family, then you lose your driving license. No good salary, no driving license and extra expenses on taxis.”  Adli noted that in other countries, when they think about dealing with traffic jams, they do not consider the possibility of reducing the number of drivers as much as look for radical solutions, including improving roads, constructing bridges and tunnels and improving public transport. “The withdrawal of licenses is another hasty decision taken without a study of its dimensions and the resulting negative effects. We are tired of these decisions,” he said.

“Obtaining a driving license in Kuwait is extremely difficult. The list of requirements is very hard for expats to meet. Some people are not allowed to hold a driving license despite drawing a salary of KD 1,000 monthly because of their job title, such as being a hairdresser. Others may have a degree and a job, but have lived in Kuwait for less than two years or their salary is less than KD 600,” said an expat, who like many interviewed for this story, preferred to remain anonymous.

A young expat woman told Kuwait Times she does not have a driving license because expats need to follow cumbersome procedures to get one. She said due to not having a driving license, she faces transportation struggles not only with regards to costs, but also in terms of safety and security.

Citizen Huda Al-Saleh, 26, empathized with the plight of expats. “I lived outside Kuwait to study, and I was wasting time and money on transportation and taxis and was always exhausted. When I decided to obtain a license, the procedures were difficult, because I had a study visa, but when I got it, I felt a lot of relief. So I feel the suffering of expats who are struggling to get a driving license. A driving license is a right for everyone,” she said.

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