I am going to be completely honest with you – visa regulations are not a simple topic to write about. The regulations themselves are easy to understand but they change on a regular basis, making it difficult, for even a lawyer, to stay updated. In fact as I was writing this article, the regulations changed again! There seems to be a lot of change in Kuwait in the past few months, and as you all know, change can be for the good and/or for the bad, but I am hoping that this change is for the best.
It is no secret that the government wants to bring down the number of ‘violating’ expats in Kuwait right now. We know this because various government officials have made this clear through public statements. One of the ways that they are doing this is by making visa obligations tougher for expats that are looking for employment. I understand that the Kuwaiti government would like to create more opportunity for locals currently, but I do personally hope that this change is fair for all. I must say though there have been some great changes in the past few weeks from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor regarding contractors.
Before I answer queries from contractors, I thought it is best to explain who contractors are in simple terms. Contractors are employees working for companies on government contracts. I have many clients at the firm that are on contracts and therefore I would like to write about what major issues they deal with. I have put together the most common questions below and tried to answer them.
* I am currently working on a government project. The company I am working for is not implementing the Kuwait Labor Law for our benefit, I tried to file a complaint last year at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, but I was told that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is only responsible for the private sector. Is this true?
Not anymore. Previously, that was the case, but since contractors are in a unique working position where they are working for a private company, yet doing work for the public, there was some confusion on which law is to be applied on them. Now it is clear that the Ministry of Social Affairs will handle all their complaints, as a new department has been in place specifically for visa 17/contractors. (Please note that you can be visa 18 or visa 17 and be working on a government contract.)
* I was told that since I work in a camp for another country’s military as a contractor, Kuwait’s law does not apply to me. Instead, the labor law of my employer applies to me – is this true?
No, it is not true. Everyone that works in Kuwait for a company is under the Kuwait Labor Law (excluding those that work for the oil companies). A simple way to understand this is look at your passport – if you have a Kuwaiti work visa or a Kuwaiti work permit, most likely you do, then Kuwaiti law applies to you.
On the other hand if you are deployed to Kuwait for a certain project and a certain temporary timeframe, and you were already working in the foreign country and you will go back to working in that foreign country, then we could say that Kuwaiti law is not applicable to you.
* I am currently on a contractor’s visa and would like to transfer to another company once the project ends. Can I do this?
I know that this has been really confusing to a lot of my clients. Government officials have repeatedly stated that transfers will not be available for contractors in the future. With that said, as of now, there are three scenarios by which a contractor could possibly transfer his visa to another company, as follows:
1. If the company the contractor wants to transfer to is owned by the same owner as the company he or she is currently working in, regardless if the new job is not for a government contract. Here is a hypothetical example to make it easier for the readers to understand: You are currently working for company X that is building a spaceship for the Kuwait government, after building the spaceship, a sister company of company X offers you a job position as a salesman for a store they own. You could get a transfer
2. If you are transferring to another job position for a government contract, then you can do so if your current employer approves and signs a document for transfer that is available at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.
3. If you entered Kuwait to work for the private sector, then you transferred to a government contract visa, you can retransfer back to the private sector. Example, you came to Kuwait to work as a clerk for a store, you then transferred to work for the government to build a spaceship, you can then transfer back to work as a waiter (please note that these examples are extremely hypothetical and are just there to help you understand the situation better!)
I hope the above helped. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me on [email protected]
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed