By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: Although the interior ministry announced previously that expats don't have to pay fines if their residency visa expires during the official shutdown when all public sector institutions are not working, yet fines have appeared when renewing iqamas online.

The interior ministry initially allowed article 18 (for employees in private sector) and article 20 (domestic helpers) residencies to be renewed online. Later, renewal of article 22 (family dependent) and article 24 (self-sponsors) residencies were added to online services at the beginning of this month.

Some people have complained of still having to pay fines for being late in renewing residencies, although it's not their fault as the government is on holiday and due to not having this service online earlier. An official at the immigration department told Kuwait Times that people still have to pay fines when renewing their iqamas.

"The ministry of interior gave an option to visa violators to leave the country without paying fines between April 1 and 30, 2020. But if they want to stay in Kuwait, then they have to pay the fines," he said. He added sometimes there is high load on the system, so applicants should try repeatedly.

Aliasgar Fakhruddin, a Kuwait Times reader, explained his problem with renewing the iqamas of his wife and daughter, who are family dependents on article 22. "Their passport is expiring in March 2021, so they can't renew the residency as the validity of their passport is less than one year. So I issued a new passport for each of them and tried to renew their residency, but the website of the interior ministry is not accepting the renewal," he said.

"I tried to contact the ministry through their email, but I didn't get any response. I also paid the fines for the expired residencies although it's not my fault, as the ministry had announced that they will not penalize those whose visas expire during the period of the closure. Now with not accepting the renewal, I will also have to pay more fines," complained Fakhruddin.

Afsar, another reader of the Kuwait Times, also faced a problem when renewing the visas of his wife and son. "The residencies of my wife and son expired on March 22 - during the public holiday - and the ministry opened renewals of family visas only in April. So when I tried to renew their iqamas, a fine of KD 2 per day was charged. Even after paying this amount, the visas were not renewed," he pointed out.