By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: Authorities in Kuwait are planning to withdraw driving licenses of expatriates whose employment designation changed when they changed jobs. Residents may be required to hand over their driving licenses upon renewal of their residencies as a condition for renewal. If their new job/role doesn't meet the requirements for the license, they will lose it.

The interior ministry however didn't specify when the new regulations will be issued or enforced. The plan hasn't been finalized yet and the legal mechanism to withdraw licenses still needs final approval. But the plan could result in thousands, if not tens of thousands, of foreigners losing the right to drive in Kuwait. The interior ministry announced last week that new regulations would be issued that allows the government to even seize valid driving licenses should a resident's visa status change.

Obtaining a driving license in Kuwait is already a difficult and lengthy process. Currently, driving licenses are issued to expatriates who meet a highly selective list of criteria, including being 18 years of age or older, having a college degree (attested) and earning at least KD 600 a month. They also must have lived in Kuwait for at least two years and hold a valid driving license from their country of origin.

For exemption from the abovementioned criteria, the driver must have one of the following job titles or roles: Engineer, journalist, doctor, lawyer, professor, mandoub, judge, prosecutor, university faculty staff, librarian, pharmacist, teacher, social worker and a few other designations. Housewives who have children in school, university students and drivers (on domestic help visas) are also exempt.

Residents who do not meet the criteria or who have changed jobs/roles since their driving license was issued will lose their license (even if it is still unexpired). Under the new regulations, those caught driving with an expired or 'invalid' driving license won't be subject to the usual KD 5 fine, but instead may be deported for driving without a license.

How many people this regulation could impact remains unclear. Statistics quoted by interior ministry officials in local Arabic dailies in 2019 and 2020 claimed approximately 800,000 to 1.6 million driving licenses have been issued to foreign residents. Tawheed Al-Kandari, the Interior Ministry's PR and Media Director, told Kuwait Times that probably around one million driving licenses are held by foreign residents.