After Kuwait’s labour laws have been put into the spotlight yet again in the past recent months due to criticisms received by the sponsorship system in the Gulf State, as well as to the unfavourable treatment of migrant workers in terms of their labour rights and benefits, a recent survey by the Kuwait Times involving around 200 foreign workers holding either article 18 or 20 visas have shown that a wide majority of these workers still do not have their passports at hand, in contrast to what the law says.
Kuwait: A Wide Number of Foreign Skilled Workers Don’t Get to Keep their Passports, Still
According to the survey, 63% of those working in the private sector, and about 70% of foreign domestic workers do not get to keep their passports with them.
And while some of these employees get to keep their travel documents with permission from their employers, others do not get to enjoy the prescribed number of days off in a month, or at least one (1) day in a week.
According to the law, it is unlawful for employers to keep the passports of their employees, as defined in the ministry resolution number 143/A/2010 in Article 1 which states that: “It is prohibited for private sector and oil sector employers to hold travel documents of their employees.” On the other hand, sponsors of domestic employers may keep their employees’ passport, but only with their employee’s consent.
Back in May, the Philippines and Kuwait have signed a memorandum of agreement which allows the deposit of domestic helpers’ passports at the Philippine Embassy for safekeeping, but the majority of employers have yet observed this rule.
Many white collar expats and those who have office jobs are allowed to keep their passports, but this is not the case in all professions. Accountants and employees who hold special roles such as those with access to safes, money, and other financial assets or info, may have their passports be kept by their employers. This also holds true for expat managers of small businesses or companies whose owners frequently travel outside the country so as to safeguard the business from instances of employees running away.
At present, lower-skilled employees of large corporations in the Gulf State may have their passports retained as part of standard company policies despite the governing labour law.
Of Kuwait’s over 3.4 million expats, there are still a wide majority of them who do not have regular access to or possession over their passports. This is not only limited to low-skilled workers, but even teachers, managers, accountants, and the like.