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Hundreds of expat engineers unable to renew iqama due to regulation change

‘KES certificate, accreditation now required for renewal of work visa’

Expatriate engineers in panic over iqama twist

KUWAIT: Hundreds of expatriate engineers in the process of renewing their work visas were in disarray yesterday when a new regulation applied by the Public Authority for Manpower were suddenly enforced.

The regulation which was circulated to all labor departments earlier this week stated that expatriate engineers will not be able to renew their work visas unless they obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Kuwait Society of Engineers (KSE). To obtain the NOC, the engineers must have graduated from a university that is accredited and is on the list of accredited universities and courses on the KES master list.

Since Tuesday, hundreds of expatriate engineers have flocked to the KES premises in Bnaid El Gar to seek help in obtaining the NOC. Nawaf Aboobacker, a mechanical engineer whose work visa expires soon provided Kuwait Times with a first-hand account of the situation at the center. “I was worried when they said that the procedure for new applications was only open in the evening and as expected the lines were massive with more than 350 people all clamoring for more information.”
He said. “I stood in the line for over an hour and when I finally reached the end, there was only one lone staff member doing the application process. I had provided all my college information and even though my college was accredited, my course (Mechanical Engineering) was not. When I asked what I am supposed to do now – I was told to go back to my college in India and check with them.”

Kuwait Times spoke also with the Kuwait Engineering Forum (KEF), an engineering society made up of over 1,400 engineers from India. They verified that they were facing similar issues with the new regulation as not a lot of colleges in India are accredited under the NBA accreditation system currently being used by the KSE. One KEF member stated that this issue will affect nearly 60 percent of the Indian engineers working in Kuwait.

Moreover, even if someone has an engineering degree from an accredited college, they must still prepare for and write an exam in the KSE itself before acquiring the no-objection certificate. Already members of the Jordanian engineering society are making plans to take the exam as a group. Both the exam and the preparation classes for the exam must be paid by the individual, though it is possible some employers will cover the cost.

The Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) did not provide any further information about the issue when contacted by Kuwait Times yesterday and stated that an official announcement will be made sometime next week. The official who spoke with Kuwait Times confirmed the new regulation and noted that it mainly applies to expat engineers working in the private sector. The PAM official also mentioned that this circular is a kind of cooperation between it and local NGOs and that it may be a first step in applying similar rules for other professions in the future. Kuwait Times also contacted the Kuwait Society of Engineers but was unable to reach anyone.

Frustration has been growing among the expatriate community in Kuwait in the wake of a series of governmental decisions made in recent weeks, which they believe falls under a policy to reduce the number of foreigners in the country. Many engineers have expressed fear of facing a situation where they might be forced to leave the country if further complications arise from the latest regulation.

By Aakash Bakaya

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