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What restrictions are currently on foreign workers?
For a foreign worker to be granted a residency visa, they must be sponsored by a Kuwaiti company. This system, known as “kafeel”, has been in place for many years, but has been shown to stop growth and prevent investors and businesses to the country.
It can also cause issues for employees who want to advance their careers and develop through roles in different companies.
What it Kuwaitization?
In 2017, Kuwait announced that they were aiming to ensure that Kuwaiti nationals were given preference for jobs in the Public Sector. This follows similar schemes in neighbouring GCC states, including Saudi. With an expat population making up over 70% of residents in Kuwait, this was a big task.
As of 2020, almost 77% of the public sector workforce had transitioned to nationals of the Emirate, with an aim for it to reach 100% eventually.
What are the proposed changes to visa applications?
The decision to drop the existing system was originally touted as far back as 2007. However it was later dropped in 2011, before resurfacing again this year. The constant drive for economic diversification within the country is highlighting the shortcomings of the kafeel system and pushing the need for more flexibility to the forefront.
Under new regulations being discussed, the current system will be scrapped and expats can apply for visas directly to the government. This will avoid the need for a sponsor from within Kuwait, streamlining the process and attracting talent and business owners who would otherwise not have considered investing in the country due to complex visa laws.
What new visas are being discussed and who can get one?
The proposed changes include residency permits issued on a 5, 10 or even 15 year basis. This will give business owners and investors the opportunity to start and oversee major projects in the country and guarantee more long-term financial growth.
Those who are issued the long-term visas initially are likely to be CEOs and large-scale investors already living in Kuwait, who have shown their ability to contribute to supporting the national economy.
As well as having increased stability with an extended visa, and avoiding the need for a sponsor, there will be other benefits to the new system. Anyone granted a residence permit will not fall under Public Authority for Manpower’s jurisdiction, meaning they will have increased freedom of movement in and out of the country, as well as who they can and can’t deal with on a business level.
How will the new visas help Kuwait as a country?
By offering long-term visas to business owners and investors, there will be increased confidence in choosing Kuwait for new corporate opportunities. Having the extended time in the Emirate guaranteed, it will allow anyone issued one of the new visas the chance to develop and mature their business ventures without the worry of applying for renewals.
New potential expats can also apply more freely for visas, without the need to have to secure a sponsor already within the country. Navigating the sponsor system can be a difficult task for anyone, but it especially difficult if you’re not entering into employment at an existing company. The Kuwaiti government can now have a hand in choosing new expat investors, enabling them to shape the country’s development more carefully.
Kuwait has big plans for it’s future. With foreign talent supporting the journey as the economy expands, it’s likely that these new investments will play a key role in the success.