Kuwait to ease residence permit procedures

September 11, 2012

Foreigners in Kuwait will be able to renew their residence permits without the need to work for a mandatory three years for their sponsors.

The new rule is part of a series of measures taken by Kuwait to cancel the highly controversial sponsorship system.

In 2009, foreigners were allowed to change their residence permits without the consent of their sponsors but needed to work for their employers for at least three years.

“The social affairs and labour ministry will give any employee the right to change the residence permit without the approval of the sponsor,” Jamal Al Dossari, the assistant undersecretary for the labour sector, was quoted as saying by local Arabic daily Al Seyassah. “The changeover will be allowed following evidence that the sponsor has refused without valid reasons to give the permission to change the permit.”

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He added that the ministry will also allow changing the residence permit without the three-year clause if the company is shut down or if its licence is passed on to another person through sale or inheritance.

The sponsorship system binds the work and legal residence permits of foreigners to their employers, legally known as sponsors.

An expatriate worker cannot quit or change jobs or enter or leave Kuwait without the explicit permission of the sponsor.

The system was introduced in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to regulate the relationship between employers and foreign workers, mainly unskilled labourers from Asia needed for the booming construction sector.

It was eventually used as a routine practice for all foreigners, regardless of their positions.

However, the system that gives immense powers to employers has waded into controversy and it has been likened by several officials, including a Bahraini former labour minister, to a modern-day form of slavery.

The system economically fulfils the needs of the employers and gives them “immense control and unchecked leverage over workers”.

Socially, the system stresses the temporary presence of the expatriates in the country, even though thousands of foreigners have lived in the Gulf where they have been lured by the prospects of lucrative employment contracts.

In recent years, the GCC states have launched a series of reforms to amend or scrap the sponsorship system and to allow higher degrees of employment mobility and greater independence for host country entry and exit procedures.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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