It is no secret that Kuwait has changed immensely in the past few years. Last week I was in Dubai for a business meeting and met a lovely expat lawyer who used to work in Kuwait for seven years between, 2000 and 2007. She told me that she got an offer to return in 2011 but refused. Although she loved Kuwait and enjoyed her time here, she didn’t want to come back because her colleagues told her that Kuwait has changed for expats, and although some might see it positively and some might see it negatively, it was different and she should keep that in mind.
One difference she said many people are seeing is stricter regulations regarding visas and visa issues. Stricter, more organized laws are expected as the country grows and creates ties with international countries. Because of these major changes, visa bylaws for expats have become so confusing that even lawyers are confused. One major reason is they are bylaws and not laws. What is the difference between a bylaw and a law? I will explain this in simple terms that everyone can understand and that may not be legally correct. Unlike a law, a bylaw doesn’t go through parliament to be changed, no one votes and there are no official procedures. Instead, the ministry can issue them. Bylaws are therefore easy to change, and are usually used for issues that need to be changed often, like traffic violation fees, and administrative issues. So today I will answer common questions I get about visa.
Question: If my visa/residency expired and I have a case in shoon (Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor) against my employer because of visa-related issues, what can I do? I am really worried about moving around in Kuwait without a visa.
Fajer: If your working visa/residency has expired and you have a case against your employer then you need to get a temporary visa issued from shoon. You need to ask shoon for this and although the process may be very complicated, it is important to take this step. Temporary visas can last between one and three months, giving you enough time to find a lawyer in Kuwait to represent you so you can go home, or for you to find a new sponsor.
Question: I don’t want to work for my employer anymore and I want to transfer. Can I get release from them even though I haven’t found a new job?
Fajer: I would always suggest to my clients that they find another job before they ask for a transfer. This is because it is smart to always have a plan before you make a decision. Unless your work environment is not safe, I would wait it out and take all the right steps. With that said, you can get a release and some companies will give you a time frame for you to find another job. Most companies give around two weeks.
Question: Can I work in Kuwait on the wrong visa?
Fajer: No. I receive this question very often and it does not make sense to me. In every country you will need the proper paperwork to work as an employee. The law being confusing is not an excuse. I see people all the time coming to me working as tourists or on dependent visas and it is wrong. As a lawyer I cannot, and will not, encourage this behavior. Just because you think everyone is getting away with it, it doesn’t mean that people will continue getting away with it. This kind of behavior will encourage the government rightfully to enforce deportation.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed