It is common practice to do a little research about any place you intend to visit or move to. Following the common rules and laws in any country will help you avoid incurring fines or worse- getting penalized that even your own embassy can do nothing about.
Here, we will give you the rundown of the basic laws and guidelines to observe when visiting the State of Kuwait:
What to Expect When Visiting Kuwait
First off, Kuwait is a conservative Muslim country. This means that there are several customs and local traditions based on their culture and religion that you need to respect and observe so as not to offend the people, particularly during the Ramadan, a holy month-long celebration of Muslims.
Kuwait, as a country, is a Sunni Islamic state and follows Sharia laws. The legal system of Kuwait is founded on the English law, Sharia law, Egyptian customs and some features of the Ottoman system. Personal and family disputes are mainly dealt in Sharia courts.
Entry / Exit
All visitors except Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals are required to present their visa upon entry to Kuwait. Strict entry rules apply to all foreign nationals, with or without dependents, under the sponsorship of Kuwaiti nationals.
Foreign nationals travelling to Kuwait by air can either acquire a free 30-day pass / tourist visa or a 90-day visit pass / business visa for a certain fee upon arrival. However, expats should obtain a ticket prior exiting the country. In general, expats won’t have any difficulty going out of the country unless there are commercial or contractual disputes with a Kuwaiti national or company. This could deter a person from leaving the country until everything has been duly resolved.
Since Kuwait is an Islamic country, all liquors and associated beverages as well as beef, pork, pigs and all related products such as pigskin (used in wallets and handbags) are not allowed to be imported in the country.
Special permits need to be issued by authorizing agencies to legally import certain products. Kuwait’s Health Ministry regulates the importation of drugs and medicinal products; the Ministry of Interior screens imported weapons, whereas the Ministry of Commerce and Industry monitors the import of precious stones, metals and jewels. Importing pets and other animals requires authorization from Veterinarian Health Certification and approval from the General Directorate for Agricultural and Sea Wealth. Furthermore, avian species from Malaysia, Jordan, Italy, Palestine, Albania, Ukraine, Thailand and Zimbabwe as well as all animals from Iraq are not allowed entry into Kuwait.
In the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise till sundown. During this time, all people in Kuwait (Muslims and Non-Muslims alike) are prohibited to eat or drink (even water) in public areas. Violators of this rule may be fined, even imprisoned when caught.
There is no such thing as dual nationality in Kuwait. The rule is to choose one nationality and lose the other. Children with dual nationality are given two years after reaching legal age to choose which nationality to adopt.
There are regulations that apply when crossing borders to neighbouring countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia from Kuwait. Crossing borders to nearby countries would require proper documents such as visa permits. When travelling by car in Kuwait, expats can use an international driving permit to drive, and third party insurance is mandatory. If you’re applying for residency in Kuwait, you can get around by car with an international driving permit until granted a resident permit. After which, you will need to acquire a Kuwaiti driving license. Check the eligibility requirements to obtain a driving license at the nearest Kuwaiti Embassy.
Business transactions and dealings in Kuwait are all sanctioned by the Sharia. Under this law, a set of detailed rules on how to conduct business must be followed and enacted. Any business transaction that is fair and beneficial is considered lawful and accepted whereas activities deemed suspicious, unfair, and uncertain/risky are not allowed and considered illegal. Following the doctrines of Islam, businesses that deal with things such as swine, liquor, and idols are considered haram or forbidden. Moreover, the act of charging interest on money lent, known as ribah, is not allowed by Sharia law. This has been observed by Islamic banking; however, many commercial banks in Kuwait still lend money with corresponding interest.
Helpful Tips and Reminders when travelling to Kuwait:
- Always bring your legal identification such as passport or a Kuwait civil ID card, if you have one.
- Observe general modesty and act accordingly in public places. Women who wear shorts and tight-fitting clothing will likely attract unnecessary attention, especially in downtown areas.
- Importing liquor or any alcoholic beverage, swine products, and lewd materials is strictly prohibited by law and can result to incarceration. Illicit use of drugs is a serious crime in Kuwait that is punishable by imprisonment of 5 or 10 years on top of a hefty fine. There is no bail for serious offences such as drug-related crimes in Kuwait.
- Getting intoxicated in public places as well as drunk driving are grave misdemeanours in Kuwait, and are punishable by imprisonment, fines, retraction of driving license, even deportation.
- Government, military and industrial facilities as well as other restricted areas such as oil fields are off-limits to visitors. Taking photos near any of these areas are strictly prohibited.
- Homosexual activities are considered illegal in Kuwait. Co-habitation is also considered illegal and immoral in the State. Avoid public displays of affection (PDA).
- The use and issuance of ‘bouncing’ cheques is a grave violation of the law and cannot be granted bail in Kuwait.
Whether you’re traveling to visit or move to Kuwait, it’s very important to take note of the common rules and laws of the State and understand their importance in the context of the people’s beliefs, religion and traditions to ensure your safe and enjoyable stay in Kuwait.