By Chidi Emmanuel

KUWAIT: Standing at the entrance of the interior ministry building in Mishref, Abdullah Saad, an Egyptian expat, could not contain his frustration as he narrated his ordeal over the ban on family visas. “This is really frustrating. We (Saad and two of his friends) come here every month to check if the ban has been lifted, but we always get the same answer - no,” he said in dismay. On June 27, 2022, the Kuwait government announced and implemented a temporary ban on issuing family visas for expatriates.

The ban applies to all nationalities, including those who have been residing in the country for many years. The decision was made to reduce the number of foreigners living in Kuwait and address the country’s demographic imbalance. The ban applies to all types of family visas, including those for spouses, children and parents. Officials have defended the decision, stating that it is necessary to address the country’s demographic challenges. The ban prohibits the issuance of family visas for expatriate family members.

This means that those who are currently residing in Kuwait cannot bring their family members to live with them in the country until the ban is lifted. “The ban is preventing family members (especially non-Westerners) from reuniting, thereby causing emotional distress and family strain. I really need my wife to be with me. It has not been easy with me. The separation is affecting our relationship. If I had known, I wouldn’t have sent them home after COVID,” Saad said regrettably. The family visa ban can have a significant impact on families, both emotionally and financially.

“This ban has caused emotional distress for families who are unable to reunite, especially those of us who have young children. I only have 30 days of vacation annually. This is not enough. I wish I can bring my wife and my son here. According to Kuwait’s family visa rule, I am qualified to bring my family here. I have a monthly salary of KD 700. It is more frustrating to know that you can, but you actually can’t because of the ban. My wife feels emotionally tortured every time I called her,” Raph Davis, an African expat, told Kuwait Times

The ban has also had financial implications for families, as they are now forced to bear the costs of living in two separate locations. “Apart from the emotional torture, the financial burden is much too. I have to pay rent here and (there) for my family in my home country, coupled with the high cost of living now. This ban has triggered emotional stress and financial difficulties for many expats who are struggling to cope with the separation,” Davis added. “The ban on family visas has a significant impact on the social and emotional well-being of expatriate families.

It also makes it challenging for expatriates to manage their work and family responsibilities, as they will have to travel back and forth between Kuwait and their home countries. The ban also has economic effects. It may discourage skilled expatriates from coming to work in Kuwait. Many skilled workers prefer to bring their families with them when they move abroad, and the ban on family visas may make it less attractive for them to work in Kuwait. The ban has led to a decrease in consumer spending, which could affect various sectors of the economy,” explained Ahmed Zaki, a sociologist.

Amir Hassan, an Indian expat, explained the difficulty in renting a flat without a family. “It is hard to find a decent flat in Kuwait unless you have a family. Most building owners and harises (caretakers) prefer to rent flats and houses to families. They always ask for marriage certificates and the wife’s civil ID copies. We are still sharing a flat with another family even though we can afford to pay for a flat,” he said, as his friend nodded in confirmation.

“We are appealing to the government to review this decision so that we can reunite with our families,” Hassan’s friend Vihaan added, as he thanked Kuwait leaders for their wisdom, wishing them Ramadan Kareem. It is important to note that the ban only applies to new applications for family visas. Expatriates who already have family members living with them in Kuwait are not affected by the ban.