According to statistics issued by the Public Authority for Civil Information, the population of Kuwait on Dec 15, 2018 was 4,674,044 (1,401,854 Kuwaitis and 3,272,190 non-Kuwaitis). In September, the General Department of Residency Affairs revealed the total number of expatriates who have valid residence in the country is 2,861,380.
So expatriates make up two-thirds of the population. This is normal in the Gulf states, and governments are aware of the imbalance and deal with it in different ways. But in Kuwait, it does not appear that there are real solutions that could be beneficial for all parties, simply because the status of all expats is not alike. Some are new here while others have spent all their lives here – Kuwait is home for them.
Also, I believe that the increase in the number of expatriates is not the reason for the imbalance in demographics, but other reasons such as the spread of visa trading over the years and failure to confront this matter firmly. This is the first and most important reason, so it is necessary to distinguish between expatriates and their length of stay here with a clear criminal record – some have spent 30 years in Kuwait and maybe more – because this category deserves recognition by the state.
Longtime expats who have been working for many years in Kuwait and have practical experience are a silent group of people and don’t appear in the media. They deserve a thank you gesture by the state. This topic was discussed last year between MPs and some statements were made in this regard, but I don’t know where it ended. At that time, it was said that Kuwait is considering granting permanent residency to expatriates who have spent more than 30 years here under certain conditions. I am in favor of honoring those who contributed to the development of the country, especially if their criminal record is clean.
Also, those expats often have long years of experience that can be used for training and consultation, as in Western countries. It is known that some expats can sponsor themselves under specific conditions of the interior ministry, but the residency law still needs to be followed, especially if it involves expats who are old and cannot work anymore but Kuwait is their home with their kids living here. I think they should get an exemption from yearly renewal of residency.
The ministry allows residency law violators to leave the country without paying penalties or adjust their status every year at a certain time. These initiatives are important, because some of the people who are staying in the country want to change their residency status, but do not have the money to pay fines. They are cut off from new jobs and their livelihoods and families are affected. Therefore, Arab and foreign embassies must raise awareness and warn their citizens against violating the laws of the country.
MP Mohammed Al-Huwaila made a clear statement on the subject of granting longtime expats lifetime residency. “It is necessary to study the jobs and people that the country needs,” he said, adding that developed countries attract residents to ensure their stability and strengthen their economy. MP Salah Khorshid said “permanent residency is now available for expatriates according to the laws of the interior ministry,” adding that residency should not be granted based on the duration of the expatriate’s residence, but it must be dependent on the condition that the expatriate can provide for this country.
I support the permanent residence of every expatriate who has spent 30 years or more in Kuwait. Most longtime expats also have their families here, so they should not stand in long queues to renew their residencies every year or two.
By Muna Al-Fuzai