Anonymous 10:15 wrote to tell me about an article in the Gulf Times; a discussion with lawyer Labeed Abdal, who proposes a green card type of sponsorship system in Kuwait.
Anonymous 10:15 says, “ I think you will find this article interesting because quite frankly it would affect people like you who are long time residents. I like the idea but changes in Kuwait come slowly although periodically they come up with good solutions to problems like this, but it high-ranking officials that seem to block them. http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/kuwait/call-to-introduce-green-card-concept-in-kuwait-1.1048999”
Call to introduce green card concept in Kuwait
Laws to help better conditions of foreigners and end abuses by visa traffickers urged
By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Published: 11:26 July 15, 2012
Manama: A Kuwaiti columnist has called for reforming his country’s immigration laws to help improve the condition of foreigners and end abuse by visa traffickers.
“We need to make serious reforms in the immigration laws in Kuwait, as the sponsor system must be cancelled to leave this matter between the expat and the state,” Labeed Abdul (they spelled his name wrong) said. “Moreover, the types of jobs, services provided, responsibilities and levels of income for an expatriate must be considered for a permanent visa, whenever Kuwait starts to consider this matter.”
Writing in the local daily Kuwait Times, Labeed called for an end to “making people suffer through forcing them to live on 30 days’ entry visas or work visas that can be misused by employers”.
A solution he suggested was to introduce green cards, similar to the ones in the US.
“A green card provides permission to reside and work in the country on a permanent basis. It is an immigration process that will develop into a permanent stay in the country after having been a lawful resident. It also can be taken away if there is any failure to meet local regulations and can positively lead to naturalisation,” he wrote on Thursday.
“In Kuwait, there are thousands of foreigners who have lived and worked here for ten years or more and respect all the rules made by the government and have made Kuwait their home. Those people want to stay here with their families since they feel there is nowhere else to go, as they lived, married and even had their children here.”
Labeed said that a large number of people considered Kuwait “a great place to live in” and “have successfully adapted to its culture and had great and friendly relations with its people.”
“We indeed want them not to feel unwelcome or extremely worried whenever the clock starts its quick ticking towards expiry dates for their visas.”
Around three million people live in Kuwait, with foreigners making up two-thirds of the total population.
Most expatriates are unskilled labourers from Asian countries working in the booming construction sector.
Several labour officials from the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have called for imposing five- or six-year residency caps, mainly on unskilled workers, arguing that they could turn into a security threat. (DG: Probably because they had to leave their wives in their country and they are desperate for the company of a woman.)
However, business communities have resisted the proposal, saying that it would disrupt the economy and would cause chaos in the local markets.
Okay first of all, I don't believe this will every fly. While it is great in theory, reality is that Kuwait doesn't want people to stay long-term and they certainly don't want potential new citizens (refer to the Bedoun cases still on-going). Which brings me to another point: Why should the Bedoun (those who can prove that they should be granted Kuwaiti nationality) not get citizenship first before even discussing the idea of others getting it?
Second, LOTS of people are making money from the current sponsorship system, both legally and illegally, so yes, "cause chaos in the local markets" is quite true. How else would sponsors make money? Ethically? OMG! Shiver the thought!
Legally - Take, for example, the number of companies in Kuwait who sponsor Westerners. KRH used to be a dumpy little office downtown with bad air conditioning; housed in the same building as Baba Tahir Restaurant. Look at 'em today after scoring the CSA sponsorship deal.
Illegally - Unscrupulous business owners who offer TCNs visas for crrrrraaazy amounts of money. My former maid had to pay 700KD a year! How could she afford to do that?
While I would love to be able to make a life here, own land/property, add to the long-term economy of Kuwait; realistically, I don't see that happening. I can buy property in the US and rent it out to Kuwaitis on vacation, but I can't own a home here. Even if I wanted to buy a yacht and live on it, I would need a Kuwaiti sponsor (co-signer) unless I paid cash outright. So much for being an "adult". I even need a co-signer to buy a car. I feel like I'm 16 all over again. Ridiculous! Have they never heard of credit reports/history? When I bought my first car here, the guy at the bank where I was financing it looked down his nose at me and snydly remarked, "You need a Kuwaiti kafeel (co-signer)." I gave him my best F-you smile and said, 'What family would you prefer?' (and rattled off a few family names of Kuwaiti friends willing to help.) Dude, I'm paying YOUR bank almost $4,000 in interest ("profit") and you treat me like that?
So staying here IS in my mind. I love Kuwait (on the good days) and want to stay, but it looks like my only option might be to marry a Kuwaiti. And I'm not adverse to a trade: US Green Card for Kuwaiti nationality. (My goal: 6 months here, 6 months there. Any takers?) But wait... the Kuwaiti government has just put a hold on naturalizing wives of Kuwaitis also! It used to be possible to marry a Kuwaiti man, pop out a kid, and immediately be granted Kuwaiti nationality. Not anymore - for a woman of any nationality. (Men marrying Kuwaiti women are never granted Kuwaiti nationality.) What marriage to a Kuwaiti would do for me is the ability to remain here under his sponsorship. Fine. I could do that (and I make a mean steak as part of the deal).
I strongly believe Kuwait needs to do something about this archaic sponsorship system, but .... the country is in such disarray from so many different agles, with more being piled on every day; when will there ever be time to fix everything?