Monday, July 16, 2012

Call to introduce green card concept in Kuwait

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.”

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
Gulf News
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.

- End -

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?


Honey Andrade said...

I don't always post a comment but just dropping by to let you know that I really enjoy reading your posts, they're informative and funny at the same time. :) I love the way you think! Haha!

The idea of having a green card seems to be a pretty good one especially since my family and I have been here for 20 years now.. But I guess you're right.. It might be impossible that it would ever be approved.. Oh well :(

Anonymous said...

Mr. Labeed Abdal brought up some interesting points; however I have to agree with DG that I don’t think this is the solution to Kuwait’s dependence on the sponsorship system. There are many levels to this issue and the GCC is plagued by the number of expats that overwhelm their population who have managed to ‘overstay’ their welcome under the sponsorship system especially in Dubai. They hired these foreign nationals under the sponsorship system and these residents decided to make the GCC their home – their stay was meant to be ‘temporary’. Societies in the GCC have developed and unemployment is a concern amongst GCC nationals, so the need for so much foreign labor, especially from the sub-continent is concerning. But the ‘system’ in Kuwait has been highly manipulated by illegal visa trading, people manipulating ‘visit visas’and 'khafeels’ controlling their labor force which landed this country on ‘tier 3’ continuously on the U.S. State Department’s HR Report. I think it is a good idea to provide long-time residents with a non-sponosorship visa, under conditions, which is not associated with employment, they should not have to leave Kuwait because they become unemployed. I also feel that spouses, both male and female of Kuwaitis should have a special spousal visa with the ability to work in the country in the private sector. Why should these spouses have to leave their spouses visas when they work in the country, as if they are temporary and have no ties to this nation? So visas need to be restructured, labor grade 20 personnel need to be employed through a government company to control high rates of HR abuse, and any maid working outside the system like your ‘part-time’ maid who pays a Kuwaiti 700 KD should be illegal. She should work through a maid service company which I don’t see in Kuwait, so anyone employing illegal labor (ie part-time maids) will face a 10,000KD fine. To keep dependents on ‘visit visas’ for extended periods of time by residents should be illegal, a person in a certain income bracket should be able to get a resident visa for his family without a Kuwaiti sponsor. To allow Kuwaitis to continue to dump unqualified, low-level labor on a market that already has a high unemployment rates is catastrophic for this nation to continue on this path. There is always a back door in Kuwait and the government needs to analyze all these ‘back doors’ in order to control the criminal activity.

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 1:15 - Good points. However, I'm glad my ancestors overstayed their welcome from Ireland and Finland and France to the US because I wouldn't be around to have this conversation.

Anonymous said...

"Why am I still here? That's a question that I am all too familiar with... In fact, it reverberates within the corners of my mind each morning as I curse the heavens for whatever reason that forces me to cling onto a job I hate simply because I do not possess the Freedom to utilize free time and search at my own leisure, I do not have the luxury to shop around and wait for a career I want... or even better offers, I need a residency remember? That's what life in Kuwait is for an Expat, and not any Expat mind you, born and raised. It's quite a curse you understand, just like starving Africans desire water and food, we simply desire a permanent resident status... Don't get me wrong, not the citizenship, just simply a permanent resident, think of it like a right of abode like the UK.
I don't understand the reason behind the refusal to do so, if anything it empowers the economy with expats that are spending money with no returns, even if we end up paying taxes we still wouldn't benefit from it, it would be just pure income to the country. Why though, right? That's the question, why? I cannot answer for Expats who arrived here, such as my parents, I can speak for this "Forgotten Generation" of Expats born and raised here, it's very simple, you answered it yourself...
"And yet at the end of the day, it’s home."
That's the answer to your question, and mine as I wake up each morning... As I drive to work, every street, corner, store, hell, even speed bump has a fond memory, and how can it not? I grew up here, my entire childhood was spent here, my "wild" teenage years...
Hell if you don't remember the deserted dark walkway that is Marina Mall Crescent now, if you never got the chance to enjoy an entire night with friends till the break of dawn just sitting there, talking, laughing, then you missed on a truly beautiful era of Kuwait
If you've never cruised the Fahaheel Expressway just to see where it ends, and just because you just got your license, if you've never spent an entire night in Sultan Center coffee shop Salmya because it was the only 24 hour spot... You missed out.
I am getting nostalgic, but you get the idea, its the only home I have known... I always said, I am fortunate my parents decided to move here and give me a life I would have never been exposed to.
Don't get me wrong, its not a material angle I come from, no, if it's a couple of things about Kuwait that I love, its the genuine friends you make that I honestly believe you could never make anywhere else in the world... And the exposure to cultures from such a young age, the moment you step into school the entire world was in your class. I know my parents could have never foreseen the price I would have to pay for this life, and I don't blame them for leaving us in a situation where our homes are not our countries, and our countries are not our homes. I know that I am going to go through this life more or less a "vagabond" with no real place to call home, or rather in this case a home I can never settle in comfortably, but it will always be home.I do want to leave Kuwait, but a part of me will always want to come back. That's all I hope for, that one day I can leave Kuwait knowing I can come back home anytime I want... It's like they say, home is where the heart at, and you can never put a price nor can you ever reason with it, just like you cannot reason with any matters of the heart. This lost Generation loves Kuwait despite the fact that it holds no love for us." Medamatic

Anonymous said...

"I don't blame Kuwait, so please don't get me wrong. The struggle is part of living in a 3rd world country with a disability. But I believe Kuwait could do things to ease things up for me and others and can be a better place.
I'm 33, born in Kuwait. My dad moved here in the late 60's. I got hit by a car at the age of 4, leaving me in a wheelchair for the rest of my life due to paraplegia, the driver was drunk, he was a Kuwaiti. Due to being a citizen, and his connections, the court ruled in his favour. I struggle in every aspect of life. Out of my 12 year school life, I attended only 4, the rest was home school, no school would accept me due to a combination of reasons that some don't make sense to me. I was school's best student in 1990 prior the invasion. I buy my medical needs through the net cause I would get ripped if I bought them from here. I’m a bit active (or used to be) for a disabled and people usually looked at me in the street as though they’ve seen a UFO (my wheelchair is just a regular one no fancy stuff). Sometimes I get the pat on the back that I’m looking for, and at other times I get pushed around due to my disability.After the invasion my dad lost his job, got sick and passed away, he got a heart attack after all the depression he went through after the gulf war. I've tried two things since then, the first was to leave Kuwait, I failed as I don't qualify as a skilled immigrant as I am a disabled and without a college degree. The 2nd thing I tried to do was hate Kuwait, again I failed because of memories, family and friends. I think there are two Kuwaits, one prior to 1990 and one after. The one prior was more ambitious and determined to move forward and lead, the one after is a dead horse.I am currently working in project research and corporate analysis in one of the companies, and what really makes me feel frustrated and realize I am not happy is usually when I see the rest of the GCC move forward and Kuwait is sometimes lucky to stay in its place if not move back.
My family thinks it is best here, and I need their help in my daily life."

Anonymous said...

Also.....Kuwaiti authorities are planning to link several embassies abroad, mainly from countries that Kuwait hires low-paid workers from, with a central database system in Kuwait with the aim of stopping the infiltration of people using forged passport to the country with a cost estimated at 1.697 million Kuwaiti Dinars.

Anonymous said...

During my timeframe in Kuwait I understand that quite a few Americans have gone to jail in Kuwait for knowingly breaking the laws of this country. Many currently are behind bars, so does the US Embassy in Kuwait visit these prisoners? I was viewing the US Embassy's website in the UAE and this is what they post on this topic. I also understand that a letter was released to all Americans in Kuwait a few years ago by this Embassy that they will NOT visit them in the Kuwait prison. Why are these two Embassies SO different in their approach to American citizen affairs overseas?

Arrest of an American citizen:

"When in a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to that country's laws and regulations, which often differ significantly from those in the U.S. and may not afford the same protections that are available in the United States. Foreign countries' judicial systems and respect for certain rights are also likely to be quite different than what citizens expect in the United States. Please familiarize yourself with information and a description of the UAE court system.
In the event of an arrest, American citizens and/or friends and relatives of American citizens are encouraged to notify the Embassy or Consulate General so that a consular visit can be arranged. While a consular visit is not intended to arrange for a prisoner's release or provide legal counsel, it does allow a consular officer to meet with American citizen prisoners in order to monitor their physical and mental well-being, to inquire about mistreatment or abuse, to ensure that their treatment is in accordance with conventions in force and commonly accepted international standards, to provide information on the local legal system and a list of local lawyers, to ascertain if medical care is needed, and to facilitate contact with family and friends as requested by the prisoner.

The American Citizen Services unit can also help prisoners stay up-to-date on developments related to their cases. If a lawyer is retained, we strongly encourage incarcerated U.S. citizens and their families and friends to work closely with the lawyer regarding details of the judicial proceedings. Consular officers and staff cannot act as lawyers or pay legal costs."

K-dude said...

A tale of two brothers.

I heard this story about a month ago at one of my favorite sheesha spots. It was a slow night at the sheesha cafe, the heat and humidity driving most customers to the air conditioned indoor cafes. It gave me time to sit and chat with the manager of the place. As I smoked he told me his story.
He was from Lebanon and had studied and graduated as an engineer along with his brother. He came to Kuwait in the early 1980s to work in the oil fields while his brother went to America. His initial salary was much higher than his brother’s in America and he tried in vain to talk him into joining him here. Then the war came and with it went the contract he had. He stayed and helped out risking his life moving food, water and medicine around amongst his friends and family. Once the war ended, everything changed. Engineers were hired from farther abroad at reduced rates. He could no longer compete and support his family on the new wages. So he took whatever work he could, sometimes working illegally on the side to supplement income.
Now he looks to his brother in the States.” Almost 20 years have passed and he is a full citizen and in a few years will be eligible to collect a nice pension from his years of labor”, he tells me. “Me, I have to go EVERY year and try to get my residency approved”. “I just wait for the day that Kuwait tells me I am too old to get residency and throw me out with nothing, like yesterday’s newspaper.”
I thanked him for sharing his story with me and went home pretty depressed, but with a better understanding of how bad this system can be for some people.

Nixen Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Desert Girl said...

Nixen -

Operative word being "real" marriage. You have to be married for 5 years and the government conducts site visits and interviews. Not as easy as people might think.

Nixen Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.