Kuwait Law: Passport Rights

Post by Fajer Ahmed

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.

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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52 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.

      • inder says:

        One of my relative is stuck in shuwhaik in kuwait as passport is.with company name al saqabi. His visa has been expire but still passport is kept with company saying will.provide exit visa stamp on it but stillhavent received pls help..

  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.

  16. Rhoda says:

    Thank you for this blog.Mr fajer Ahmad I would like to know what is the address of the human rights committee here in Kuwait. Thank you

  17. Amira says:

    Alhamdullah! I found this article. . . May Allah reward ur kindness.
    Brother Fajer I have a question, I been working here almost 8 months now. My visa is 20 but I am working in salon. I want to go back to my country, but my employer doesn’t allows me and his holding my passport. I don’t want to continue working with him. Do I have any rights? What action I can do? Can I get my passport from him?

  18. mohamed farooq says:

    good evening,
    iam farooq from srilanka, i worked in a printing press in fahaheel for 3 years and then went to shoun (labour court) i got release but the sponsor refused to give my passport so i went to court.
    my last hearing will be held in 2015-05-18 according to kuwait law i need two witness for give me a paper for make new passport
    in this i am helpless if anyone could help me please call me on +965 90948585

    thank you

  19. Fuad says:

    Good every body , my own contributions towards this matter is that lets all the arab states changing their way of treating the foreigners, especially the house maids they are jus slave to them and we are all the same .people in the Arab states are driving a car which is worth more kd 25 to 30 cars but are paying the house maid kd 60 to 70 what is d meaning of that , Hw wicked they are .. Oooh let them change they life styles ..

  20. Fuad says:

    The Arabs are driving a car which is worth more than kd 25,000 to 30, 000 car but they are paying a house maid kd 60 to 70 kd which is $ 200 is not fair , they are very wicked . In d Arab states they need to implement what they a human rights for every but they always implement it for them self . They think they are God or king we are all d same .. The foreigners 95% of are living live slaves in the Arab states . More than 80 % are more than 20 to 25 year in Kuwait can’t able buy a car or even bicycle because of they don’t have human rights to speak for the wicker one . Hw can u treated a human beings like this ..

  21. Sajeev says:


    I served 3 mnths notice period in the company and company is holding my passport and now saying without cancelling the residency, they will not release it back. They didnt mention initially about GP letter and all other things and I had booked my flight without knowing anything about GP letter and all. Now I need to cancel old flight, book new flight with higher rate and all for just getting my passport back. Is this fair?

  22. Hawa Yakubu says:

    Am a maid in Kuwait n am really facing fire so pls l need a help.my everything has been ceased from me

  23. nirmal says:

    Am working under ATC company.
    This company holds almost 600 staffs passport & certificates..If any emergency situations happens in our family we want to beg like dogs. last time my friend’s father died,that situation also company behaved like a butcher . This company having good terms with ministry so they can do anything. No one Wil ask.ask . I think Kuwait labour comission they all sso know very well this kind of acts. But not can fly above Kuwait Dinar….

    Out side Labour always slaves in kuwait.(Not all).They Have no Rights

  24. kalyan says:

    I worked 4 years in Kuwait I want to go back home can I go without gp letter ? means gp letter is necessary

  25. Roy says:

    Hi Fajer ,
    My best friend is a domestic helper in Kuwait.
    She was laid off by her first kuwaiti employer after working for two (2) months only and still holding her passport.
    This was even after she performed jobs that was more than what was stipulated in the contract ,i.e.,more than the household chores,e.g. watching over the two (2) kids,not allowed to enjoy one day rest , not allowed to rest for one hour lunch break and not allowed to rest 15 mins each morning ,noon, and night time.
    This had already been going on with other employers hiring domestic helpers.
    Sponsors keep on changing DH before DH reaches three (3) mos. so that they could reimburse the transportation expenses from the Agency of the country of origin.
    To add insult to the injury and to the emotions of poor DH they could not have their passports not until the Agency paid them back.
    If DH is transferred to another employer without their passport , is it true that kuwaiti police will deport them back to country of origin and that the former will pay for the transpo expenses?
    Tahnk you very much for all your legal information in this blog.

  26. Eli says:

    Hello sir I am an IT holding Ccna certificate but I was mislead by my agent in my home country now I’m 6month finished I want to change country still in the middle east what help can you give me sir help and my logguage bag went to doha while I came to kuwait now my employer and agent have collected my logguage bag since they saw my certificate inside they don’t want to give me the logguage what can I do Please help

  27. Eli says:

    Here I work as a house help the laws are not being respected too much working hours

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