Kuwait employs a lot of foreign workers who account for 70% of its population. Many thousands of Pakistanis work in Kuwait. Pakistani citizens require a Kuwait work visa/permit to be able to take up a job there.
The Kafala System
Most of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including Kuwait, manages its migrant workforce through the sponsorship, or kafala, system. Within this system, the state gives local individuals or companies (also known as the sponsor, or kafeel) the complete responsibility of an employee both financially and legally.
The employer is responsible for obtaining a residence permit and providing the employee with an identity card (civil ID card). Thus, your legal status to live and work in Kuwait fully depends on your employer, and you cannot leave or enter the country without the employer’s permission.
Workers in the private sectors in Kuwait are governed by the country’s Labor Law. If you work in a private company, you are entitled to receive the rights guaranteed by the Labor Law. There are exceptions, however. If you are a domestic worker (working in a private house as a maid or gardener), a farm worker, an agricultural worker, a casual worker, an employee of a government department or a member of the armed forces, police or security force, you do not fall under the protection of the Labor Law. This means in terms of work, you are only protected by what is mentioned in the contract with the employer, which is enforceable through a civil court.
Some elements of the kafala system are being reviewed in Kuwait. Even though the Government has announced plans to make changes to the kafala system, the decision has yet to be implemented.
Kuwait Work Visa/Permit
The work visa/permit in Kuwait is issued under Article 17 and 18 of the country’s immigration laws. Article 17 is for Public Sector Employees and Article 18 is for Private Sector Employees.
If you are an Pakistani who has secured a job in Kuwait, then your employer has to first get for a work permit from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. Your employer has to submit your personal details to avail the residency visa (iqama.) It can only be issued on the basis of a valid employment offer from a private company or a Kuwaiti government organization. The Kuwaiti employer then applies for the iqama on behalf of the expatriate employee.
You will have to send a copy of your passport to your employer, which they have to show to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. The employee is then issued a so-called “No Objection Certificate” (NOC) with which he/she can enter Kuwait. Once your employer receives the work visa/permit, they have to send the same to you (the employee) along with the NOC. After you receive the 2 documents, you have to first go for a medical test in Pakistan from one of GCC approved medical centers.
The employee will be issued the actual residency visa once he/she have entered Kuwait. In order for the residency visa to be issued, an extensive medical certificate is necessary. The medical center will require you to display the original visa. It will conduct a blood test and a x-ray. This medical report will prove that you have a good health and you do not have any epidemic diseases.
Once the residency visa is issued, the employee can apply for a Kuwaiti Civil ID (bitaqa-almadaniyah)
This application has to be submitted within 30 days of receiving the residency visa.
You need the following documents to get the Kuwait Visa stamped in Pakistan:
Air ticket (One way).
Original work agreement. This agreement has to be signed by both the employer and the employee.
Photograph with blue or white color background.
Attested driving license and experience certificate for drivers.
Attested experience certificate for cooks.
Kashmir Overseas will help you get all these documents attested as well as to get the visa stamped on the passport.
Labor Laws Concerning Migrant Workers in Kuwait
If you work in a private company, you are entitled to receive the rights guaranteed by the labor Law.
Exceptions: If you are a domestic worker (working in a private house as a maid or gardener), a farm worker, an agricultural worker, a casual worker, an employee of a government department or a member of the armed forces, police or security force, you do not fall under the protection of the Labor Law. This means in terms of work, you are only protected by what is mentioned in the contract with the employer, which is enforceable through a civil court.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Kuwaiti Labor Laws for Private Sector Workers
Are there any deductions in the salary?
Your employer cannot make any other deductions from your salary, including for medical insurance fees, insurance premiums, work permit costs, etc.
Can the employer keep the passports of his workers?
No. Employers are prohibited from keeping their employees’ passports.
What happens after my arrival in Kuwait?
On entering Kuwait, the employee has to get his fingerprints registered for security clearance and residence at any one of the 4 registered fingerprint departments in the country. To get your fingerprint registered, you have to submit the following documents:
Typed application form.
Original Visa and a copy.
Original Passport and a copy.
Original medical report and a copy.
Original insurance receipt and a copy.
Letter for work permit from the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labor.
According to the Private Sector Kuwait Labor Law, each employer shall maintain a file for each worker wherein shall be kept copies of the worker’s work permit, work contract, civil ID, documents relevant to annual leaves and sick leaves, overtime hours, work injuries and occupational diseases, penalties imposed on the worker, end of service date and reasons behind, copy of receipts proving that documents he submitted to the employer such as documents, tools, certificates have been returned to him after the end of his service.
You must also undergo a medical examination. Your employer must procure a medical insurance for each employee. You can enter Kuwait with an entry visa, but your employer must obtain the residence permit after you arrive. After receiving your residence permit, your employer must obtain an identity card (civil ID card) for you. The residence permit and ID card are evidence of your legal status in Kuwait.
Is there any minimum wage in Kuwait?
Yes. the minimum wage is Kuwaiti dinars KWD 75 (US$250) per month.
What are the legal working hours in Kuwait?
Eight hours a day and 48 hours per week is the required working hours for an adult worker. An employee must be permitted to have a one-hour rest or break every after five consecutive hours of work. This one-hour rest or break is not included in the computation of working hours.
During the month of Ramadan, the working hours are reduced to 36 hours a week.
Working outdoors is prohibited between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. during summer, from June until end of August, except for oil and gas workers
Workers may enjoy one rest day per week. However, employers may require workers to work on their day off. If this occurs, a worker is entitled to at least 150 percent of the daily rate of the basic wage, or any other compensation agreement that is beneficial to the worker.
Are there any sick leaves?
Employees are entitled to the following annual sick leaves:
First fifteen days on full pay
Additional ten days on 75% pay
Additional ten days on 50% pay
Additional ten days on 25% pay
Additional thirty days without pay
Workers requesting sick leave must provide a medical report from the doctor appointed by the employer, or the doctor of the government medical center. In the event of conflict regarding the necessity of a sick leave or its duration, the report of the government doctor shall be adopted.
Is there any overtime wage?
Yes, it is 125% for excess hours worked on regular working days.
150% for all hours worked on the weekly day off.
Twice the basic hourly rate for all hours worked on public holidays.
Overtime is only limited to 2 hours a day, 6 hours per week and 180 hours a year and should not exceed 90 days in a year. Every employee has the right to refuse to render overtime work.
Is there any end of service gratuity?
For workers paid on an hourly, daily, weekly or on a piecemeal basis, end of service gratuity is equal to ten days of wages for each year of service during the first five years of service and 15 days of wages for any remaining years of service. The total amount cannot exceed one year’s wages overall.
For workers paid on a monthly basis, end of service gratuity is equal to 15 days of wages for each year of service in the first five years of service, and one month of wages for any remaining years of service. The total amount cannot exceed 18 months’ wages overall.
What is the procedure to lodge a complaint against my employer?
Workers must lodge a dispute at a local Public Authority of Manpower (PAM) office (six offices across the country – find details here). A PAM investigator tries to mediate an outcome. If no settlement is reached within a month, the PAM investigator refers the case to the Civil Court (Labor Circuit). Cases can be brought to the Civil Court (Labor Circuit). All cases are free of court fees.