Transferring to another sponsor

An expatriate can usually transfer his residence to a new sponsor provided his current sponsor is agreeable. For government employees, domestic servants and dependants, there are few restrictions on transfers between sponsors in the same sector.

However the rules governing the right to transfer to a new sponsor in the private sector are complex. Transfers are usually restricted to the 'same sector'. For example, a teacher may normally only transfer to a new job as a teacher and may not transfer to a sponsor in industry. Domestic workers can transfer to the private farming sector under the same sponser after oneyear's residence in Kuwait. However. domestic workers desiring to change their '20 residence' to '18 residence' should cancel their residence, leave the country and return on a new work permit. But a person on a domestic servant's visa may not transfer to an 18-visa until five years have elapsed since he or she obtained residence. And a person on a 'project' visa, i.e. someone who was hired by a private sector firm for a particular government project, may not normally transfer to private sector after the project is completed but could transfer to another government sponsor.

According to new transfer rules which were introduced in April 2001, expatriates working in the private sector are permitted to transfer residence to another sponsor after one year with their current sponsor and his consent. The transfer fee, payable to the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labour (MSA&L), is KD10 plus KD2 for the new work permit. This fee is additional to the KD10 per year payable to the Ministry of the Interior for the new iqama. An employee of a liquidated company, or of a company that has merged with another, may also transfer without paying this fee, and no matter how short a time he has been with his current employer.

But before he can change his sponsor a resident expatriate must obtain a 'letter of release' from his current sponsor. This letter is used by the new sponsor to obtain a new work permit for the expatriate. Where a current sponsor refuses to provide the 'letter of release', the matter can be taken up with the Labour Department in the Ministry of Social Affairs &Labour. Where the Department finds that the employer has no valid reason for withholding the release, or finds that the employer has broken terms in the labour contract or has violated the Labour Law, the Department may sanction the transfer irrespective of the current sponsor's wishes.

Where residence is transferred, the expatriate does not need to leave the country and come back again, nor does he have to be medically tested. Otherwise formalities to obtain the new iqama are similar to those for obtaining residence in the first place. Once these have been completed, the old iqama is cancelled and the new iqama stamped in the passport. The fee is KD10 a year and there is no rebate for any unexpired years of the old residence.

An expatriate who is not allowed to transfer his residence under the regulations may instead, if he wishes to change sponsor, resign his job, leave Kuwait and return on a fresh work permit. He or she does not need to return to his/her own country but can go to any other state in the region.

New set of proposed charges on visa transfers and work permits to be imposed on expats in the private sector was submitted to the Cabinet in May 2001. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour will impose these charges after the Cabinet approval. The Council of Ministers is likely to approve additional charges on expatriates for visa transfers and work permits to subsidies the employment of Kuwaiti manpower in the private sector. According to proposals the term required for free- transfer may be increased to three years. Expat workers wishing to transfer their residence anytime before three years may have to pay KD 250. The charges for issuing a work permit may be increased to KD 50 per year instead of the current KD 10, and the annual renewal may cost KD 5 instead of the current KD 2 charge. Expats sponsoring themselves under Article 19 may have to pay KD 100 per year.

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