Living in Kuwait
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- 22 March 2013
Respecting local laws and customs can help you avoid getting into trouble and have a trouble-free, enjoyable time while staying in Kuwait.
This guide sets out essential information for British nationals residing in Kuwait, including general traveller’s advice, travel bans, information on commercial bank transfers and charitable organisations in Kuwait.
Before coming to Kuwait, visit the Health section of our Travel Advice pages.
Generally, emergency treatment in government hospitals is free. Any follow up treatment may be charged. If you use a private hospital, make sure you have comprehensive medical insurance or the funds to pay for it.
For access to the Government healthcare system, you will use your Kuwaiti civil ID which is used once you have your residence sorted out.
For a list of Government hospitals and clinics, see Kuwait government hospitals.
Private schools operate as commercial establishments, Tuition varies significantly from school to school. Private Schools are free to set their own curriculum. Many foreign schools base their curriculum on the standards of their home countries. However, all schools are required to meet the standards of the Kuwait Ministry of Education.
Employment and recognised qualifications
Working without the proper visa is illegal. You cannot partake in any kind of paid employment without first obtaining a work visa. If caught, you will face imprisonment.
For recognition of UK educational qualifications and details of the Legalisation Process for Kuwait please see our Notarial and Documentary services guide. In the section related to legalising UK documents, you will find out how to prepare your documents for use in Kuwait.
Entry and residence requirements
For information visit https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/kuwait/entry-requirements
Find out what benefits you might be able to get while abroad and how to claim them by visiting Benefits if you’re abroad.
Driving licences and vehicles
All persons driving in Kuwait are required to carry a valid driving licence. The Ministry of Interior’s Traffic Department regulates the issuance of licences. The minimum age for learning to drive is 18 years old.
For more information, visit the Kuwait Traffic Directorate website.
Transferring your UK driving licence to a Kuwaiti one
Visit our Notarial and Documentary services guide and follow the steps for Legalising UK issued documents. Once your DVLA licence has been notarised in the UK, legalised at the FCO, and attested at the Kuwaiti Embassy in London, you can take it to the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an attestation. Translate your licence to Arabic. Here is a list of Translation Offices for your convenience. Take your driving licence and translation along with any other supporting documents to the Kuwaiti Traffic Directorate. A list of the required supporting documents, approval, and conditions are all provided by the Kuwait Traffic Directorate.
Financial crimes, including fraud, bouncing cheques (including post-dated and ‘security cheques’) and the non-payment of bills (including hotel bills) can often result in imprisonment and/or a fine in Kuwait. Bank accounts and other assets may also be frozen. You may also be liable for cheques that have been signed by you on behalf of a company.
If you have unpaid loans or financial commitments you will not be able finish your employment in Kuwait and exit the country. Any debt will need to be settled in full before your residence permit will be cancelled and your exit permit will be issued.
Residents of Kuwait are able to open a local bank account.
There is no income tax on salaries or wages paid in Kuwait.
Guidance on bringing medication into Kuwait
If you are using prescribed drugs it is advisable to carry a doctor’s note. If you are bringing prescription drugs into Kuwait you may need to seek prior agreement from the authorities. You should check with the nearest Kuwait Embassy or consulate before you travel.
Socials ethics and traditions
Thinking about visiting or living in Kuwait? There are a few things you need to know before you go and while you are here to ensure that either your stay or time living in Kuwait is memorable, for all the right reasons. Keep in mind that you are no longer in the UK. Respect the laws and values of the country and your stay should be an extremely enjoyable one.
Alcohol consumption in Kuwait
The consumption, importation and brewing of, and trafficking in liquor is strictly against the law. Drunken behaviour in public or driving under the influence of alcohol is a punishable offence, making the offender liable to a fine or imprisonment and/or deportation and withdrawal of the driving licence. Sentences of up to three months in prison are not uncommon.
Drugs are strictly forbidden, even a residual amount. Consuming or carrying drugs, even if you are transiting through the airport from one country to another, can result in an imprisonment and deportation. Buying or selling narcotics is considered a serious crime which can result in life imprisonment.
Kuwait has a zero-tolerance policy towards drinking and driving. You can be charged and imprisoned if you are caught with even the smallest amount of alcohol in your system. Tailgating, speeding, racing, lane jumping and using a mobile phone while driving are all against the law. There are numerous speed cameras on the roads and motorways. Fines in Kuwait are heavy. If you are caught you may also face the possibility of having your car impounded. Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory. If you are caught committing this offence you could be subject to a fine.
Kuwait is built on generations of Islamic traditions. These traditions have been passed down from generation to generation and form the very cornerstone of everyday life for a Kuwaiti family. The Kuwaitis are welcoming people who show tolerance and an open minded approach to visitors in their country and embrace change; but their culture and values should always be respected.
The Kuwaitis are friendly people who show tolerance and an open-minded approach to visitors in their country; but their culture and values should always be respected. The culture and laws in Kuwait are designed to ensure that everyone is respectful of each other regardless of their faith and nationality. Visitors and residents alike should avoid types of improper conduct and behaviour which can otherwise lead to fines, imprisonment and deportation.
Sexual relationships outside of marriage are illegal, irrespective of any relationship you may have with your partner in the UK or elsewhere. Cohabiting, including in hotels is also illegal. If you become pregnant outside of marriage, both you and your partner face the possibility of imprisonment. There are also legal ramifications when registering the birth with the local authorities. Holding hands for married couples is tolerated but kissing and hugging are considered offences against public decency. Open displays of affection are generally not tolerated.
Dancing is allowed in the privacy of your home, but dancing in public is classed as indecent and provocative.
Sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public, or taking their photos without permission, is strictly frowned upon.
Offensive language, spitting and aggressive behaviour (including hand gestures) are viewed very seriously and can result in imprisonment and deportation. This includes road rage.
Kuwaiti’s dress conservatively in traditional dress and can be offended when people dress inappropriately or not in accordance with Islamic values. In public places such as shopping malls, restaurants and parks, you are encouraged to dress appropriately. Clothing should not be transparent, indecently expose parts of the body or display offensive pictures or slogans. Be aware that if you enter one of these areas dressed inappropriately you may be asked to leave. Any form of nudity is strictly forbidden, including topless sunbathing.
Respect for religion
Islamic religious values are greatly respected in Kuwait. Showing any disrespect towards religious beliefs or practices is considered deeply offensive and very likely to result in a heavy fine and/or imprisonment. Other religions are respected and can be followed by the expatriate community.
Learn a few simple facts:
- Muslims pray five times a day. You will notice that the Mosques call people to pray through a speaker system. At this time you will also notice public music is turned off as Muslims perform their daily prayers
- be aware that drivers, who are not close to a Mosque, may stop at a convenient lay-by to pray privately
- during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Throughout this month eating, drinking, smoking, playing loud music and dancing in public places during daylight hours are strictly forbidden and punishable by law, including for non-Muslims
- every evening during Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the breaking of their fast with an evening meal called Iftar. You will find many hotels and restaurants throughout Kuwait who provide Iftar buffets
Personal security in Kuwait
- be aware of security and take sensible precautions
- leave your jewellery and valuables at home if you can. Only carry as much money as you need for the day. Leave the rest, and at least one credit card, in the hotel safe if one is available
- keep copies of your passport, insurance details and other important travel documents separate from the originals. It is useful to always have some form of identity on you, such as a driving licence or a photocopy of your passport
- stay aware of what is going on around you and keep away from situations where you do not feel comfortable
- find out from your guidebook or tour guide about any local scams
- keep up to date with local and regional events in the media
- don’t take risks on holidays that you wouldn’t take at home. If a situation looks dangerous, it probably is
Travel bans in Kuwait
Travel bans are legal prohibitions the Kuwaiti government imposes to prevent persons involved in disputes from departing the country. They can be the result of any sort of civil or criminal dispute or immigration violation. They are not normally lifted until the matter at issue, ie civil suit, criminal case or immigration violation is settled.
A travel ban can result from any number of causes. For example, civil courts in Kuwait can (and do) impose travel bans over financial disputes. Such disputes might include disputes between business partners, between borrowers and lenders, landlords and tenants. If a financial dispute is the basis of the travel ban, it may be possible to get the ban lifted by depositing a sum of money equal to the amount in dispute with the court.
The Kuwait Prosecutor’s office may also impose travel bans on individuals while it is conducting criminal investigations in order to prevent them from leaving the country. The Ministry of the Interior will also impose travel bans on those who violate their visa status by overstaying, working without authorization, etc. These bans will not usually be lifted until the case at issue is concluded. Persons who are travel-banned for immigration violations will sometimes also find themselves in deportation proceedings.
People who are involved in disputes or investigations can check whether travel bans exist by checking this Kuwaiti government website. By entering a Civil ID number a person can check whether there is a travel ban against an individual name. Since multiple Kuwaiti government agencies can impose travel bans, this data base is not exhaustive. Often travellers do not learn that they are travel-banned until they attempt to depart the country.
The Kuwaiti government will usually not lift a travel ban until the matter under dispute is resolved. If the resolution involves a financial penalty such as a fine, the process of getting the travel ban formally lifted can involve shuttling between various Kuwait government offices and courts to pay, obtain needed approvals, etc. Once the ban is lifted, the traveller is free to depart Kuwait.
Travellers can also be banned from entering Kuwait. This can happen for many of the same reasons as exit bans. They are a particular problem for those who have been in Kuwait previously and have not passed through Kuwaiti exit control upon their departure (for example, in the cases of persons who entered via commercial air but departed via military air). Such persons will show on immigration records as never having departed, ie visa overstays. When they attempt to enter the country again, they are frequently detained.
For further information, please contact the Kuwait Ministry of Interior on telephone: 00965 22433840.
The vast majority of British expatriates and visitors have a trouble free and enjoyable time while staying or living in Kuwait. Foreign and Commonwealth Office research shows that the majority of difficulties that British nationals find themselves in abroad can be avoided. Respecting local laws and customs can help you avoid getting into trouble. Make the necessary preparations to ensure you are well-informed and know what is expected of you as a visitor and resident of this country. For further information please visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Advice.
If you have been resident of Kuwait and are leaving for good, you will need to cancel your residency status, close all your accounts (bank and credit cards) and pay off fines or debts. Failure to do so could delay your departure or mean you are marked on the immigration system as an absconder or debtor. This could cause problems in the future, even if you transit.
For acquiring a police clearance certificate for your next destination, please refer to our Notarial and Documentary service guide for Kuwait.
For further information, please refer to the Ministry Of Interior website.
This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.