Kuwait warms to some long-term visas; Sponsorship system under review

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KUWAIT CITY, Nov 23: After years of criticism directed at the sponsorship (kafeel) system, this system is gradually entering the cycle of dissolution. The labor market seems to be on the verge of witnessing fundamental changes, as revealed by a source who requested anonymity, reports Al- Qabas daily. The source explained that these changes are supposed to see the light in the near future, as the concerned authorities are working on them based on a well-studied plan in order to keep pace with the trends aimed at economic diversification and the transformations taking place in the labor market.

Similar to the residency regulations in force in some neighboring countries to promote openness and to support economic diversification, there is a tendency to grant residency periods ranging from 5 to 15 years to expatriate investors, owners of companies and commercial projects, as well as the CEOs in some businesses. The government is moving towards amending the system of residence permits and work visas, and diversifying the forms of residency in the country, without the need for the sponsorship system, for some expatriates who serve the national economy. These steps have finally begun in a practical manner with the concerned authorities identifying some aspects related to the beneficiaries of the new residency system. This new system targets investment owners who wish to implement projects in the country, and owners of existing projects who are under article No. 18 residency. They will be granted residency of up to 15 years on state guarantee. While this step can be regarded as a start to the dissolution of the current sponsorship system, the source indicated that it will enhance the plan to attract investments to the country and grant freedom of movement to company owners.

He said it is expected that investors covered under the residency grant system will be separated from the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) and will be granted their own residency based on regulations and legal actions that will be taken soon. The source went on to explain that the amendment will also extend the mechanism of granting the “self-sponsorship” residency by facilitating the procedures for those who prefer such residencies, especially those who have resided in the country for a long period, provided great services or worked in the government sector and have the financial capability to manage their affairs without the need to work. This approach is still under discussion in the relevant authorities, especially the Ministry of Interior and the Public Authority for Manpower.

In another context, an official source in the Public Authority for Manpower revealed that most of the residents who have reached the age of 60 and hold high school diplomas and below have entered the cycle of violations of the residency law, more than ten months after the implementation of the decision to prevent the renewal of work permits for them. He explained that this issue has exacerbated their burdens due to the fines resulting from violating the residency law. Despite the issuance of three court rulings that favor them and cancelation of the decision to not renew their residencies, they are still in a limbo. The hope that was given to this category has been dashed by the existence of amendments and exceptions that led to a waiting game, during which the residencies of hundreds of them have expired, in addition to the legal extension of some others.

The Public Authority for Manpower receives on a daily basis dozens of residency law violators, who are above 60 years of age, and are attempting to renew their work permits. However, as of yesterday, the authority has not received any new instructions to allow the renewal of their work permits or implement any mechanism concerning them. The Central Statistical Bureau has issued its annual statistical report for the year 2019/2020, presenting a summary of the detailed statistical bulletins it issued during the year, reports Al-Qabas daily.

The report included a statistical outline of Kuwait in terms of the geographical, demographic, economic, cultural and environmental aspects. There were also official statistics regarding the number of expatriates in the country according to residency permits. The figures showed a decrease in the number of expatriates under government residency (Article No. 17) from 110,245 in 2017 to 100,189 in 2020, which is a decrease of more than 10,000 residence permits. The rate of decrease of the total number of expatriates in the country under all residence permits was from 3.97 percent to 3.65 percent. The number of expatriates under Article no. 18 (private sector work permit) decreased from 1,442,608 in 2017 to 1,384,336 in 2020. Regarding the domestic labor residency under article No. 20, the number of expatriates decreased from 677,592 in 2017 to 667,350 in 2020. The figures also revealed a decrease in the number of family residence permits from 540,904 in 2017 to 525,659 in 2020.

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