Problems with passports and residency
As a practicing lawyer, I am appalled by the large number of violations regarding passports and residencies, even though I have written about the topic multiple times. I do not want to portray the private sector in Kuwait negatively. There are many really great employers here who abide by the law and understand that their employees are the company’s biggest assets. As a writer though, I feel the need to focus on such issues in order to provide my readers with awareness on the topic, should they go through a similar situation in the future. I hope the questions and answers below help.
Keeping the passport
My boss took my passport away claiming that she needed it to renew my residency. My residency was about to expire, but she has kept it for three months now, and I doubt that it takes that long to renew an iqama. Can you shed some light on the issue? What can I do?
Fajer: I know this is a tough situation to be in. It is like a catch 22 situation - on one hand you need to renew your residency. On the other, you don’t want to provide your boss with your passport. Just to make things clear to you, renewal of visa should not take longer than a few days, if not just a day. It definitely does not take months. It could be that your employer has issues at the Shuoon (Ministry of Social and Labor Affairs) for previous violations, but if this is the case, she shouldn’t keep the passport with her.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies have been using renewal of residency as an excuse to keep passports. I would highly suggest that you get your employer to email you or provide you with a written document stating that they are withholding your passport for residency renewal and to write how long they have withheld your passport for.
Question: My passport is with my employer and he doesn’t want to give it back. Can I call my embassy? Are they responsible by law?
Fajer: Different countries have different laws, so therefore different embassies have different policies. It wouldn’t hurt to call them though. Some embassies will provide you with the names of lawyers, or will get involved in passport cases because the passports are the property of the country as well. It is best to call them and check.
Question: My residency has expired but I need to file a complaint against my previous employer for holding my passport. Can I go to the Shuoon (Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor)? I am afraid to leave the house with an expired residency - I do not want to get deported.
Fajer: Having an expired residency is a clear violation of Kuwaiti law and could easily get you deported. But there are exceptions to this rule, one of them being if you have a complaint at the Shuoon. If you file a complaint at Shuoon for not having your passport and then your residency expires, you cannot get deported as you have an ongoing case.
Question: I need your help because I really need my passport, but I am afraid to file a complaint at the Shuoon. I am also afraid to come to your office. Can you help?
Fajer: Unfortunately, if I do not have a power of attorney on your behalf, I cannot help you. Also, I will need to go to Shuoon to obtain your passport. I do not have access to other means. I may be able to call your employer and try to negotiate on your behalf, but I will need a power of attorney. It is an official document that gives me the right to speak on your behalf and defend you. I know that if you or I go to the Shuoon, it may cause you some issues as your boss may be aggressive towards you at work, and as sad as this sounds, it will not be simple. If you are filing a complaint against your employers, they will have the power to make your work difficult, so it is best to discuss things first and think things through. I always suggest to try resolving things amicably first.
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