Kuwait is a coastal country situated along the Persian Gulf. Despite its relatively small land area of 17,000 square kilometres, which is comparable to the size of Beijing, Kuwait boasts a significant resource: it holds approximately 9% of the world's oil reserves. The country's economy and the prosperity of its citizens primarily rely on the exportation of fossil fuels.
Kuwait is known for its minimal taxation, where petrol is cheaper than a bottle of water, and Kuwaiti citizens have access to free healthcare and education, both within Kuwait and overseas. Continue reading to determine if you qualify for Kuwaiti citizenship and to learn about the required documentation.
Routes to Kuwaiti Citizenship
Kuwait achieved independence from the UK in 1961 and implemented a new nationality law two years prior to that, which remains in effect today. The Kuwaiti government places a strong emphasis on preserving the rights of indigenous people—those who had settled in Kuwait prior to 1920 and their descendants.
Obtaining local citizenship in Kuwait is a challenging endeavour for foreigners, as only 30% of the 4.5 million people residing in Kuwait hold a Kuwaiti passport. Non-citizens are not entitled to state benefits, and there exists an income disparity, with Kuwaiti employees typically earning higher salaries than their foreign counterparts in similar positions.
There are three main routes to becoming a citizen of Kuwait:
- By descent,
- By marrying a Kuwaiti citizen, and
- By naturalisation.
Sharq, Al Kuwait City, Kuwait. Photo: Azhar Munir Din (Unsplash)
Citizenship by Descent
Children born to a couple where the father is a Kuwaiti citizen are granted Kuwaiti citizenship automatically, regardless of their place of birth. However, this rule does not extend to children born to a Kuwaiti mother and a foreign father. In such cases, these children can acquire Kuwaiti citizenship only if their parents have divorced or their father has passed away, provided that they have been raised in Kuwait.
Children born to single Kuwaiti mothers, even when the identity of the father is unknown, are granted Kuwaiti citizenship. However, it's important to note that in some cases, the circumstances of such births may result in legal consequences for the mother, potentially leading to imprisonment. Additionally, orphans whose origins cannot be determined are also recognized as Kuwaiti citizens.
Citizenship by Marriage
Kuwaiti citizenship through marriage is available exclusively to women. To qualify for Kuwaiti citizenship through marriage, a woman must have been married to a Kuwaiti citizen for a minimum of 15 years before applying. She must also express her desire to obtain Kuwaiti citizenship. However, there is an exception for female citizens of countries that are part of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, which includes Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In their case, they can apply for Kuwaiti citizenship after 10 years of marriage. It's important to note that the expedited path to Kuwaiti citizenship requires authorization from the Minister of Interior.
Women married to naturalised foreigners can also apply for citizenship within a year after their husbands' naturalisation. In this scenario, their children will also become Kuwaiti citizens.
If a woman decides to divorce her husband, she and her children can retain their citizenship. However, if the Kuwaiti spouse decides to renounce his Kuwaiti passport, the children will also lose their citizenship.
Naturalisation in Kuwait
Only 4,000 foreigners a year can become citizens of Kuwait, and you must meet rather strict requirements to succeed. All applicants must:
- Have resided in Kuwait for at least 20 consecutive years (15 years for Arabs).
- Possess a decent reputation, stable income, and a clean criminal record.
- Speak Arabic.
- Hold a job that is in demand in Kuwait.
- Be Muslim by birth or have converted to Islam at least 5 years before applying. If you cease to observe the tenets of Islam or attempt to convert to another religion after becoming a citizen of Kuwait, you will lose your Kuwaiti passport.
Not all foreigners are granted Kuwaiti citizenship. In fact, a committee of Kuwaiti citizens appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs evaluates each application individually, and citizenship is only granted to the most qualified candidates. It's important to note that Kuwait does not recognize dual citizenship, so if you are naturalised, you will be required to renounce your original citizenship within three months of the naturalisation process.
Salmiya, Kuwait. Photo: Latif MansoorAli (Unsplash)
Easier Routes to Kuwaiti Citizenship
There are no special programs in place to facilitate the acquisition of Kuwaiti citizenship, including citizenship through investment. However, in exceptional cases, the Minister of Interior may choose to grant citizenship to a foreigner who has made an outstanding contribution to the development of Kuwait. Unfortunately, there is no predetermined list of potential contributions that can guarantee citizenship; each case is considered on an individual basis.
Required Documents for Obtaining Kuwaiti Citizenship
You should submit your application in person to the General Department of Citizenship and Travel Documents of the Ministry of Interior.
Here is a list of documents you must provide to obtain citizenship by birth:
- Copies of your birth certificate and ID.
- Academic transcript from the last educational institution where you studied (in Kuwait or abroad).
- Four recent photos sized 4 by 6 cm on a blue background.
The applicant's father must be present during the application submission. If the father is deceased, you must provide his death certificate and the document that establishes the heirs.
Women eligible for obtaining Kuwaiti citizenship by marriage should gather the following documents:
- Husband's nationality certificate.
- Husband's passport and Civil ID.
- The original and copies of the wife's passport and her Civil ID.
- Four recent photos, each sized 4 by 6 cm, with a blue background.
Widows or divorced women must also provide the following documents:
- Husband's death certificate or a divorce certificate.
- A document that determines the heirs.
- Birth certificates of all the children or a medical report from a governmental hospital, in case of the absence of children.
- Civil ID.
- Certificate of no marriage from the Ministry of Justice.
- Four recent photos, each sized 4 by 6 cm, with a blue background.
There are no standardised lists of required documents for other methods of obtaining Kuwaiti citizenship. It is advisable to inquire about specific document requirements during your appointment at the Ministry of Interior.
Loss of Citizenship
There are certain circumstances under which a Kuwaiti citizen may lose their acquired citizenship, including:
- If an applicant obtained citizenship through fraudulent means, such as providing forged documents or false information.
- If an applicant is convicted of a crime related to honour or integrity within 15 years of naturalisation.
- If an applicant is dismissed from a public office for disciplinary reasons within 10 years of obtaining Kuwaiti citizenship.
- If the Kuwaiti authorities have evidence that an applicant is or has been working for a foreign state with the intention of undermining Kuwait's security.
Photo: JC Gellidon (Unsplash)
How to Stay Legally in Kuwait if You Are Not a Citizen
Despite the wage disparity between Kuwaiti citizens and foreigners, salaries in the country remain relatively high:
Monthly income according to Average Salary Survey, $
A foreigner holding a work permit in Kuwait can apply for a long-term visa and residency status for themselves and their family, including their spouse and children. To do this, you must secure a job with a Kuwaiti company while still in your home country and then arrive in Kuwait with a job offer to initiate the visa application process.
To initiate this process, you will need the following documents:
- A travel passport that is valid for at least another six months.
- an entry permit, provided by your employer, issued by the Ministry of Interior of Kuwait;
- A police clearance certificate confirming that you have no criminal record.
- A medical certificate.
- A complete questionnaire in either English or Arabic.
- A recent passport-sized photo measuring 3 by 4 cm.
The next step is to obtain resident status in Kuwait and apply for a Civil ID, which is typically the responsibility of your employer.
In a Nutshell
Kuwait is a prosperous nation with a high standard of living, offering its citizens numerous benefits, such as free healthcare and education. Nevertheless, acquiring Kuwaiti citizenship is a challenging endeavour. Applicants are required to reside in the country for a minimum of 20 years, maintain an impeccable reputation, and be fluent in Arabic. For women married to Kuwaiti citizens, the path to obtaining citizenship is somewhat easier, requiring 15 years of residency. If the applicant hails from a member state of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, the minimum residency term is reduced to 10 years.
Kuwait. Cover photo: Jan Dommerholt (Unsplash)