Marrying a foreigner

Muna Al-Fuzai

It is well known that the Kuwaiti nationality law has defined the terms and regulations of granting Kuwaiti nationality. This matter is under the discretion of the ministry of interior as a security authority in the state. This issue has several facets, from legal to humane, and I would like to take up the matter as a Kuwaiti citizen. It seems that most of the talk is always about the children of the Kuwaiti man who gets married to a non-Kuwaiti, but little is mentioned about this non-Kuwaiti woman and her rights as a wife, or the potential complications that such marriages may face.

This issue has always been argumentative between supporters and opponents and the conditions related to naturalization of this woman in case she wants to get Kuwaiti nationality. Some of the conditions in the law are known to all – the first requirement for obtaining Kuwaiti nationality is that the person must be born in Kuwait or abroad to a Kuwaiti father. So obtaining Kuwaiti nationality will be a normal matter through official channels. This applies to all children regardless of the number of wives or their nationalities.

Other conditions for getting Kuwaiti citizenship include providing the country with great and exceptional services. There are other conditions too, but I don’t want to dwell on them today because I would like to focus on the naturalization of non-Kuwaiti women who marry Kuwaitis. I am not against the marriage of any Kuwaiti man to a non-Kuwaiti woman, as it is a private decision. But I hope any man who wants to marry a non-Kuwaiti explains to her the situation – good or bad – especially in case of divorce or death or separation, because frankness and honesty is needed to protect her rights as a human and a wife, if not a mother.

Article 8 of the nationality law stipulates that the marriage of a foreign woman to a Kuwaiti will not allow her to become Kuwaiti unless she declares to interior minister her desire to obtain nationality. This condition requires that they continue their marriage for at least five years from the date of declaring their desire to obtain citizenship.

For years, it was necessary to submit a request to declare the desire as a condition for the wife to obtain Kuwaiti nationality and a period of five years of marriage. A proposal was raised by the National Assembly aimed at canceling the declaration of the desire as a condition for the wife to get Kuwaiti nationality. But I think the desire of the wife is a must – maybe she has no interest.

The government allows a Kuwaiti husband to naturalize his foreign wife after five years of marriage, while the old time limit for Kuwaiti citizenship was 20 years. I think this matter was an issue between supporters and opponents for many years. I see that the decision to marry any national is personal, but a man is obliged to take care of his wife and protect her legal status in the country, especially in the case of having children, because after all she is the mother. Kids will always need their mother regardless of her nationality, their age or status of marriage. 

There is another matter issue – polygamy. Parliamentary proposals on the humanitarian aspect focused on allowing Kuwaitis to naturalize more than one wife in case of having multiple wives. However, the response of the interior ministry to these proposals confirmed its rejection out of concern of exploitation by men who may misuse this to naturalize foreign women for money, as well as the impact on the marriage rates of Kuwaiti women.

Some who are against mixed marriage rely on their views about some cases of women who married citizens, and when they got Kuwaiti nationality, forced them to divorce and leave the children. Some of these wives had children from former spouses, so they brought them to Kuwait to live under their sponsorship, while some returned to their former husbands and brought them to Kuwait. I think these cases are possible scenarios, but not for everyone.

I think naturalization of a foreign wife should depend on the time period and the consent of the competent security authorities, as well as her personal desire and consent. She can choose between her original nationality and the nationality of the husband. I believe that a non-citizen woman who has spent many years in the care of her husband and has children must have full legal protection to ensure her stay in the country in all cases, even divorce or death of the spouse.

By Muna Al-Fuzai