Right to travel

Attorney Fajer Ahmed

There are many people who came to Kuwait to work (we refer to as expats, but I am not an advocate of that word) and have made new plans for the New Year or holiday season, whether it is to travel for the holidays or to start a new life outside of Kuwait. Before I discuss the right to travel for what we refer to as expats in Kuwait, I just want to say thank you to everyone that is here working in Kuwait. By being here, you are making Kuwait a better place, so thank you kindly and Happy Holidays.

Keeping the passport
Question: Does my employer have the right to keep my passport? And if they are, what can I do about it?
Fajer: No. Your employer does not have the right to keep your passport. This is illegal, but unfortunately seems to be a more common than expected practice in Kuwait. I have seen international companies keep passports of thousands of employees. There are monetary punishments for companies that do keep passports, yet these companies unfortunately know that it is too expensive for employees to take the companies to court.
You need to go and file a complaint in the Public Authority for Manpower. This can be a lengthy and difficult process and everything is in Arabic, so you will need a translator or lawyer. You will need to obtain different documents before you can file a complaint. Please keep in mind that it will take some time and that your employer might even be more unfair towards you knowing that you have filed a complaint. Unfortunately the best way to deal with this is through a lawyer.

Visa cancellation
Question: I am working as a contractor in my company and I have my passport, but someone told me that I need to cancel my visa before I travel, since I am leaving for good. The company is not giving me my rights such as my salary, so I want to leave. Can you please advise me what is the best solution?
Fajer: I think it is best that you cancel your work visa officially and file these complaints so you are not later on accused of absconding. Even if you are not able to cancel your visa, at least file a complaint for your rights such as your salary at the Public Authority for Manpower.

Husband’s permission
Question: I am a 40-year-old Kuwaiti mother of four and I want to travel without my husband or his permission. Do I still need his permission? What about my children; do I need his permission for their travels?
Fajer: No you do not need his permission for your own travels, but you will need his permission for your children’s travel even if he is no longer your husband and you have custody of your children.

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By Attorney Fajer Ahmad