Pass­port is­sues

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL - By At­tor­ney Fa­jer Ahmed

Legally, we don’t own our pass­ports - they are not our prop­erty, but are ac­tu­ally the prop­erty of the coun­tries that is­sued them. Pass­ports are ex­tremely im­por­tant be­cause they are of­fi­cial doc­u­ments is­sued by gov­ern­ments to cer­tify our iden­tity and en­ti­tle us to the right to travel.

Un­for­tu­nately, some em­ploy­ers in Kuwait and the re­gion con­tinue to hold their em­ploy­ees’ pass­ports. Why do com­pa­nies still do this? There are reg­u­la­tions that im­pose fines on com­pa­nies that do not ad­here to the law and hold em­ploy­ees’ pass­ports, yet the is­sue con­tin­ues to grow in Kuwait. I have writ­ten ex­ten­sively about the mat­ter, but I con­tinue to get emails on a daily ba­sis about the is­sue, so I de­cided to write about the im­por­tance of keep­ing your pass­port with you as an em­ployee and what games com­pa­nies play in or­der to keep the pass­ports.

Com­plaint

Ques­tion: My em­ployer has my pass­port - what can I do? I heard I need to file a com­plaint at the Shuoon (Min­istry of So­cial Af­fairs and La­bor). Is this true? Where do I go?

Fa­jer: Yes, you need to file a com­plaint at the Shuoon. It has one of­fice in ev­ery gov­er­norate in Kuwait. Ev­ery em­ployee has a file in a cer­tain gov­er­norate, so you need to find out which Shuoon of­fice your file is un­der. Your best op­tion would be to go to the Shuoon in your work­place’s area or where your com­pany’s head of­fice is lo­cated. So for ex­am­ple, let’s say you work in an oil com­pany, so you should prob­a­bly go to Ah­madi’s Shuoon.

Once you get there, you need to file a com­plaint stat­ing that your pass­port has been taken and not re­turned. The Shuoon does take this is­sue se­ri­ously and al­though the pro­ce­dure may be com­pli­cated and may take a long time, at least the peo­ple that work at the Shuoon have been very com­pas­sion­ate and car­ing to­wards em­ploy­ees. If you are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to file a com­plaint, I sug­gest you hire a lawyer. They are very ef­fi­cient at do­ing the job, be­cause un­for­tu­nately from ex­pe­ri­ence, I can tell you that some com­pa­nies play games stat­ing that they do not have the pass­port or ac­cuse the em­ployee of ly­ing.

If you file a com­plaint, ex­pect that this may cause the HR depart­ment or your em­ployer to be ag­gres­sive to­wards you. I am say­ing this from ex­pe­ri­ence. I have seen em­ploy­ees go through a rough time and be treated badly be­cause they asked for their right to keep their pass­ports. It’s re­ally sad to see that em­ploy­ers still treat their staff this way, even though the Kuwaiti govern­ment has rewrit­ten many res­o­lu­tions in or­der to give the em­ploy­ees more rights.

Res­i­dency

Ques­tion: Is it true that if my pass­port is with my em­ployer, they can can­cel my res­i­dency?

Fa­jer: Yes, they can can­cel your res­i­dency at the Shuoon if they have your pass­port. They can also ex­tend your res­i­dency if they wish to do so. This has also caused many prob­lems for my clients - some of them were look­ing for­ward to leav­ing the com­pany, yet their em­ploy­ers re­newed their res­i­dency for an­other year.

I know it is very dif­fi­cult for you to refuse to give your em­ployer your pass­port and it is a very tough sit­u­a­tion to be in, but I highly ad­vise that should you have to give your pass­port to your em­ployer, get a signed doc­u­ment stat­ing that they have your pass­port. Also, do the same when they give it back. If they ask for your pass­port be­cause they want to re­new your res­i­dency, for ex­am­ple, get them to give you that in writ­ing as well. I hope the above has helped, and my apolo­gies for re­peat­ing cer­tain top­ics, but there are many con­cerns re­gard­ing these top­ics. If you have any topic sug­ges­tions, please do for­ward them to me.

For any le­gal ques­tions, queries or if you need le­gal as­sis­tance, email ask@fa­jerthelawyer.com

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