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Kuwait announces a three-month amnesty for migrants with irregular status

On March 17, 2024

Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior recently announced an amnesty that allows residents with expired visas to adjust their irregular status after paying a fine, or leave the country without paying a fine. The amnesty will be in force for three months, between 17 March 2024 and 17 June 2024. According to a statement from the Interior Ministry, migrants with irregular status can depart through designated ports without incurring any penalties and will be permitted to return to Kuwait at a later time.

Migrants also have the option to regularise their stay by acquiring a new residency (i.e. finding a new sponsor), provided they settle their fines first. These fines amount to KD 2 (US$ 6.5) per day, capped at a maximum of KD 600 (US$ 1952).

As per the statement, migrants who have administrative holds or court cases must contact the Interior Ministry’s General Directorate of Residency, where their eligibility for residency will be assessed.

The Interior Ministry warned that those who fail to rectify their status or depart within the amnesty period will face legal penalties, and will also be deported and barred from reentry.  

Two months ago, Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior announced a ‘pay-for-amnesty’ scheme; however, it rescinded the amnesty the next day and continued to arrest and deport irregular migrants.

The amnesty scheme targets approximately 110,000 residents with irregular status in Kuwait. According to officials, the Interior Ministry will now focus its crackdown on beggars and street vendors but will implement “strict measures” against irregular migrants at the end of the amnesty period.

Though the amnesty scheme provides a welcome reprieve to individuals wishing to depart Kuwait without facing penalties, leaving is not an option for many due to debts or the absence of employment opportunities back home. The fine of up to KD 600 — which would be imposed on those who have been irregular for roughly 300 days or more — remains out of reach for many who wish to remain and work in Kuwait.

As activist and community organiser Yousef Alshammari discussed in his recent op-ed, amnesty schemes ultimately fail to address the systemic power imbalances of the Kafala system. Even when the schemes are well-designed, they ignore the reality that many migrants fall into irregular status due to the exploitative actions of their employers. Migrant workers are dependent on their employers to renew their visas, yet they bear the brunt of visa-related penalties.