Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) recently announced the full resumption of family (dependent) visas for migrant residents, effective from 28 January 2024. However, residents seeking family visas are now required to earn a monthly salary of KD 800 (US$ 2,600) and possess a university certificate relevant to their work sector.
Previously, the minimum monthly salary threshold to obtain family visas, also known as, Article 22 visas, was set at KD 500 (US$ 1,625), and no university certificate was required. Those who work in the following professions remain exempt from the university degree requirement:
- Advisors, judges, prosecutors, experts, and legal researchers in the government sector
- Doctors and pharmacists
- Professors in universities, colleges, and higher institutes
- School principals, deputies, educational mentors, teachers, social workers and laboratory technicians in the government sector
- University financial and economic advisors
- Imams, preachers, muezzins in mosques, and memorizers of the Holy Qur’an
- Librarians in government agencies and private universities
- Ministry of Health employees, including nurses, paramedics those holding medical technical positions in various specializations, and those working in the field of social service
- Social workers and psychologists in the government sector
- Journalists, media professionals and correspondents
- Coaches and players in the federation and sports clubs
- Pilots and flight attendants
- Funeral undertakers
Families living or born in Kuwait, as well as children under the age of five, are exempt from meeting salary requirements when applying for a family visa. Except in special cases, only male residents are eligible to apply for family visas remains; i.e. only men may sponsor their wives and children, while women cannot.
Kuwaiti officials stated that “applications that violate the requirements will not be tolerated, indicating that the attestation of university certificates by the relevant authorities is a condition for their acceptance.”
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Kuwait suspended the issuance of family visas for migrants. The process was only gradually resumed in November 2022, enabling resident parents to obtain family visas for their children under the age of five who were stranded abroad.
Residents on family visas constitute a large portion of the migrant population in Kuwait. According to Kuwait’s Central Bureau of Statistics (KCBS), in 2022, there were 520,654 residents under the family visa category, equivalent to nearly 18% of the total migrant population.
The recent decision is anticipated to impact numerous migrants in Kuwait who may no longer meet the new requirements, especially the stipulation of possessing a university degree. As per KCBS, as of mid-2021, only 13.2% of the total migrant population in Kuwait held an educational level of a university degree or higher. The average monthly wages of non-Kuwaitis in mid-2022 was KD 322 (US$ 1046).
The combination of meagre wages for the majority of migrant workers and the progressively stringent criteria set by Gulf states for family reunification has led to gender imbalances in Gulf societies, with men constituting the majority of the migrant population. In Kuwait, for example, nearly 70% of all migrants are male. Despite ongoing restrictions on family unification, male migrants—often labelled as ‘bachelors’—are regularly targeted in dehumanizing campaigns by government officials.