Expats harassed for mistakes in new Civil ID

Recent decision by the government to amend Kuwait’s Foreigners Residence Law, so that the residency status would no longer be stamped in the passports of expatriates, is causing untold difficulties for many foreign nationals.

According to the new amendment No. 135/2019, which came into effect from 10 March, residence visa stickers will no longer be affixed to the passports of expatriates when they renew their residency status. Instead, all the details pertaining to residency will be included in the new civil identification card being issued by the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI).

To exit or enter the country, expatriates will now have to submit their new Civil ID to confirm their legal residency status, as well as their passport to stamp their departure or arrival to the country.

At a press briefing on 6 March, the Director General of General Department for Residency Affairs Brigadier Abdulqader Al-Sha’aban had explained that the amendment was intended to upgrade services in various government departments. He revealed that the law was being applied to expatriates holding all types of visas. He also clarified that those with residence permit stickers in their passports prior to the enforcement of the decision will be exempted, provided their residency and civil IDs were valid.

The policy behind the new law and how it would help expedite processes at government offices were clearly explained at the press briefing. But, what was not explained, or obviously foreseen, was the hassle it would cause to expatriates. As they say, the devil is in the detail, especially when it comes to implementation of laws related to expatriates.

A month after the introduction of the newly amended law, there is chaos at the airport immigration counters, and at the residency section of passport offices, as well as at the PACI headquarters. Expatriates are given the runaround and sent from one office to another, because of discrepancies in their names in the new civil ID and the old residency sticker in their passports.

Expatriates seeking a departure from Kuwait are the ones suffering most. They are stopped at the immigration counter, after they have checked in and their luggage has been boarded, because the authorities find that the name in their passport and new civil ID do not match. The expatriate is turned back from his flight, and asked to rectify the error before being allowed to travel.

Expats are also not allowed to travel without the civil ID in hand as the residence is now in the civil ID. So after stamping their residence many expatriates cannot leave until the new civil ID has been issued, which can take any number of days, causing mental distress and financial loss in some cases.

Many people who cannot read their own native language, are being punished for the ineptitude of some pencil-pusher at the residency department who entered the name incorrectly in the previous residency sticker. Expatriates who reach the airport with high hopes of seeing their near and loved ones in a few hours time, instead find themselves at PACI headquarters in South Surra waiting in queue to correct a mistake that they had no part in the making.

But the correction process is not a simple change in the computer, it entails visiting the fingerprinting office to have your fingerprints taken again, and waiting for the data to be verified and updated in the system. Then it is back to South Surra PACI headquarters, to have a new civil ID issued. The icing on the cake to this whole convoluted process is that you also have to pay for the new civil ID.

Not only do you endure the emotional loss of not seeing your loved ones as planned and probably the monetary loss from a nonrefundable airline ticket, you also have to suffer the ignominy of paying for the ineptness of someone at the residency department.

In addition, some countries are not even aware of the new system introduced and are denying boarding to passengers who do not have residency stickers in their passport. The inconveniences will only keep mounting as the summer travel season may see a lot more harassment as a result of the new system.

Where else would this happen and be accepted as the norm, but in Kuwait. We sincerely hope the authorities would step in and do the needful to ensure expatriates do not continue to endure such unnecessary suffering.

-Staff Report