Minimum salary for visit visas raised to KD 200
The interior ministry has increased the minimum wage required for a foreigner to issue visit visas for relatives, only a few days after the state approved a decision to raise the salary required for expatriate workers to sponsor their wives and children, in a move said to help curb an increase in the country’s expat population.
An expat must now have a minimum salary of KD 200 to apply for a visit visa for his wife or children, said Maj Gen Talal Maarafi, director general of the interior ministry’s residency affairs department. The previous minimum wage was KD 150. Meanwhile, the minimum salary must be KD 300 for an expat applying for a visa for a sibling or any other relative, except for parents, whose age must not exceed 50 years, Maarafi explained.
The interior ministry last year set the duration of a visit visa issued for a wife or child to three months, while visit visas for relatives were restricted to one month. Last Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled AlSabah issued a decision amending the foreign
residency law to raise the salary requirement for dependent visas from KD 250 to KD 450, a move expected to cut the number of foreign families in the country.
The two most recent steps come as Kuwait scrambles for solutions to address a demographic imbalance problem that is widely blamed for the country’s deteriorating public services and infrastructure and unemployment among other issues. “We have 2,670,000 expats, and if we do not take such measures, this number will double in a few years, creating a bigger problem,” Maarafi told Al-Rai daily.
“How can a person whose monthly salary is KD 250 deal with the high cost of living and meet all the demands of his family?” Maarafi said in defense of the interior ministry’s decision. “It is illogical, and keeping it unchanged means costing the state money and commitment towards unproductive manpower.” Maarafi reassured that the decision will not be enforced retroactively, and will only affect dependent visa applications submitted after the decision became effective. Dependent visas issued before the decision can still be renewed based on the old salary, and the same goes for issuing visas for newborns, he added.
Only male expatriates are allowed to sponsor a family, according to Kuwait’s residency laws. The average salary of a male expat in the private sector is only KD 247, according to the latest statistics. In case the husband dies, a working mother can sponsor her children, provided that her monthly salary meets the KD 450 minimum requirement, Maarafi explained. Some exceptions will also be made on humanitarian grounds regarding spouses and children, he added.
The interior ministry’s recent measures are directly linked to the government’s plan to readjust Kuwait’s population, which is currently dominated by expats at nearly 70 percent, according to sources familiar with the issue. Meanwhile, the same sources who spoke to Al-Rai on the condition of anonymity admitted that a proposal to reduce or set a quota for the number of expat communities in Kuwait will take time to implement, adding that any step in this regard would be taken on a gradual basis in order to minimize any potential negative effects that might happen as a result. “[Rushing the decision] could create confusion in the state’s economic and labor market fields, in addition to the effect a drastic reduction could have on Kuwait’s relations with other countries,” said the sources.
The Egyptian government last week urged Kuwait to retract a decision it recently made to reduce the monthly rent allowance paid to expat teachers in public schools from KD 150 to KD 60, which affects nearly 13,000 Egyptian teachers working in the state. Egyptian Minister of Manpower Mohammad Saafan was even quoted in the Kuwaiti press as saying that the ‘crisis’ resulting from this decision will be presented for discussion during the Arab Labor Organization’s meeting late next week in Qatar.
Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and Minister of State for Planning and Development Hind Al-Subaih reiterated as well that rectifying Kuwait’s demographic imbalance remains part of the government’s plans, yet its implementation needs “prolonged periods of time”.
In other news, Maarafi announced that the interior ministry will implement the interior minister’s decision pertaining with rectifying the situation of Palestinians in Kuwait who carry travel documents issued by Arab countries. Nearly 8,000 Palestinians have been dealing with a dilemma for the past few months after Egyptian authorities stopped renewing their travel documents issued by the Egyptian government on grounds that they already carry Palestinian passports.
However, those Palestinians could not renew their visas in Kuwait because Kuwaiti authorities were yet to recognize their passports as official documents. But this changes this week as the systems at all immigration departments around Kuwait will be updated to accept Palestinian passports, Maarafi said, adding that Palestinians with expired visas would then be required to obtain a certificate from the Palestinian Embassy to confirm that their passports are valid, before their new visas are printed on the passport.
Separately, Maarafi expressed hope that the foreign ministry would begin searching for new markets to recruit domestic helpers before a national domestic labor recruitment company that was established earlier this year begins its work.