Kuwait Law: Passport Rights

Posted by Fajer Ahmed

THE QUESTION
Hey Fajer, I work for a private company in Kuwait and the company has my passport (and other employees) and refuses to keep it with us because they’re afraid we might leave the country. Do they have a right to keep our passports? I was told they don’t but I’m afraid if I make a big issue out of this then I might get fired.

THE RESPONSE
So this question/answer is only for private company employees

Do employers have the right to keep an employees passport?

No, No and NOOOOO!

This is a very common question, at work and now from my readers on the blog.

Why is it illegal?

The Ministry resolution number 143/A/2010 says in (Article 1) “It is prohibited for private sector employers and oil sector employers to hold traveling documents of their employees”

Then (Article 2) mentions a punishment from the labor law for employers in the private sector who do not follow (Article 1). The punishment mentioned in (Article 141) from the labor law is as follows:

“In the event where the violator does not remedy the violation within the specified period, he shall be subject to a fine of not less than KD100 and not more than KD200 for each of the workers who are involved in the violation. In the event of recurrence within three years from the date of the final judgment, the punishment shall be doubled.” This means that your employer will get fined KD100-200 for keeping your passport.

Can you get fired?

No, No and NOOOOO!

You can not get fired except for reasons stated in the law which I won’t get into now but basically non of them is for telling your boss to be legal.

I want everyone to know the following for any labor law violations by your employers in the future:

- There is a hotline you can call (no one picked up when I called) 128

- There is a site where you can file a complaint (no one replied to me yet) http://www.mosal.gov.kw/

- There is also an NGO organized by Bibi Nasser called Social Work Society of Kuwait located in mishref www.q8sws.com Tel: 25375031 they might be able to help you with issues, even though most of their work is for domestic and construction workers

- According to the labor law, if you have a complaint against your employer, the Minstry of Labor and Social affairs will look into it before it gets to court and will try to resolve it

- If it does go to court, the court has exempted laborers from any court fees

- I sat with officials 2 weeks ago from the Minstry of Labor and Social Affairs for a research paper by John Hopkins about domestic workers in Kuwait and their rights. The officials I met with told me that an employee who’s passport is held by their employer can come in if he or she really needs to travel and get a paper from them that will allow the employee to travel

Fajer Ahmed – Legal Counsel
Have a Kuwait law related question? Email me at fajer.ar@gmail.com

The legal opinions expressed in this post are those of the author Fajer. Opinions expressed by Mark or any other writer on 248am.com are those of the individual’s and in no way reflect Fajer’s opinion.


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36 comments, add your own...


  1. omair says:

    Thanks for The Reply :)

  2. Neo says:

    Fajer, Thanks for the Post

    Wow .. A KD 200 Fine per Passport. So in my company’s case , there’s close to 75 employees, which would mean a total fine of KD 15,000/-

    Where do I report my company ? And can it be done anonymously ?

    • aaa says:

      It says right in the post >.<

      - There is a hotline you can call (no one picked up when I called) 128

      - There is a site where you can file a complaint (no one replied to me yet) http://www.mosal.gov.kw/

      - There is also an NGO organized by Bibi Nasser called Social Work Society of Kuwait located in mishref http://www.q8sws.com Tel: 25375031 they might be able to help you with issues, even though most of their work is for domestic and construction workers

  3. aaa says:

    Worth mentioning that while you can’t legally get fired, your employer CAN hold it against you in terms of stuff like a raise, a promotion, a bonus. This is why a lot of people keep quiet even if they have a complaint.

    • nYx says:

      Please replace CAN with WILL!

    • Kevin says:

      It’s no use. They withold salary. Or they give you a bad evaluation. Or they dump loads of unnecessary work on you so that you are forced to resign. The hassle of going to the Ministry and complaining and following up stops people from reporting the company.

  4. Jassim says:

    What if he signed on it, that they can keep you passport?

  5. Anwar says:

    Thank you so much.
    I hope that every resident in Kuwait is aware of their rights.

    • nYx says:

      They know their rights alright; but none of them shall speak up for fear of reprisals! Do you really expect employee(s) who complained to the Ministry and yet be all hunky dory?

      Read yesterdays or maybe todays ‘Arab Times’ legal clinic you’ll get the exact picture!

      In todays times, it best to keep shut and go about doing your job. Work as if you dont exist(the quiet cubicle workers type) and all the more importantly work as if all eyes are on you.

      • Denny Crane says:

        this mentality is everything that’s wrong with kuwait.

        Denny Crane

        • nYx says:

          Mentality??? The one the of employers or one of the employee?

          • nYx says:

            Mentality??? Of the employer or the of the employee?

            As far as both are concerned, the employer wants to extract his pound of flesh; the employee (expat ofcourse) wants to receive a ‘no damn hassle’ pay check at the end of the month, do his time and go back home.

        • Hazmat says:

          This mentality is what is the main reason of all the worlds problems.

    • Fajer Ahmed says:

      you are welcome. I hope so too, that is why i am blogging.

  6. Buzz says:

    Your passport looks tattered. You must travel a lot.

    • D. says:

      I bet that xenophobia and racism keep you up at night. They certainly seem to dominate your entire life…

      • Adam (the original one) says:

        wtf? How did you get that from his comment? Seems you need some therapy.

        • D. says:

          I got xenophobia and racism from comments he’s made previously, to the effect that Kuwaitis are feeling crowded out of their own country and how he’s not comfortable living around “desperate people” (read: foreign laborers who are being taken advantage of) because “it’s not safe”.

          I don’t need therapy for reading it as negative (it’s a rather pointless remark otherwise) due to his previous comments. You need better arguments, though.

      • Hazmat says:

        You really want to see Xenophobia, Check out Surrey’s comments on the forums.

    • Mark says:

      it’s a stock photo

  7. Matt says:

    Kuwait is no different than anywhere else. Having laws is one thing, but enforcing them is another thing entirely.

  8. Bahaar says:

    The government knows that many sponsors confiscate the employees passports but they leave it as it is or ( as you mentioned non working hotline). It’s illegal for sponsors to take money in return of sponsorship but we (including the government ) know that “ Tejaret el eghamat” is huge in Kuwait but they don’t pur or enforce any Strict law to stop it.

  9. madman says:

    To be fair, a company that holds an employee passport will not harm the employee. Whenever he/she needs the passport for any reason, they can have it. Yes the employee has the right to have his/her passport with them, of course. In the other hand, the company also has the right to save its interest. An employee who has access to money, let us say someone in sales..can take the money from a customer, go home pack and leave the country. Am I going too far or do I have a point?

  10. Wyn says:

    Nice topic. Some of the top companies in Kuwait hold employee passports. The last company I worked for used to hold up everyone’s passport from the smallest scale worker right upto Asst. Managers.

    I can still understand holding passports of people handling cash etc.

    In my company 50 out of 1000 employees used to handle case. But all had to keep passports. It was official & no one could argue. Sometimes it felt like official slavery.

    But from Managers upto CEO levels etc they could have their own passport with them. I could not understand the logic. However, in my experience in Kuwait many top corporate money swindling crimes were still committed by Managers onward :)

    But things are slowly changing in Kuwait for good.

  11. klf says:

    There is a misconception that your employer cant fire you at will . This is absolutely not true . A contract can be terminated at any time for no reason , but the employer will pay anywhere from 3 months salary ( if the contract is an Automatically renewed contract with no specified period ) , or the full remainder of the contract if it is in the first year of a one year contract . so termination per say needs no specific reason but there will be compensation which is clearly stipulated in the new labor law . in addition since most contracts are only one year contracts, if you mess with your boss don’t expect to have your contract renewed .

    Plus if you work for the government , they can hold your passport .

    PS some lawyers don’t know Jack about labor law in general and actual current labor law enforcement practices in the ministry of labor which changes as often as some woman’s hair color

  12. Alcibiades Humour says:

    Well, at least its held in fire proof safes and available on call anytime you need it.

  13. bodii says:

    Wow !! thanks fajer !

    please update us if they replied to your email.

  14. Dania says:

    I read the entire kuwaiti Labour Law (on the gov site) and there’s nothing that says that employers can’t withhold your passport!
    Can you put a direct link?

  15. Nazir says:

    Thanks a lot for this article, much appreciated.


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