Kuwait MP Moves to Stop Expats from Obtaining Driver’s Licenses
MP Safa Al-Hashem, a Kuwait lawmaker, has put forward a proposal that would dramatically limit the ability for expatriates living in Kuwait to obtain a driver’s license. Al-Hashem has said that this suspension should be continually renewed until traffic congestion and road problems have been solved in Kuwait. However, the suspected underlying reason for the proposal and subsequent restrictions is clear. Al-Hashem has long been a proponent for limiting the number of expatriates in Kuwait, and this isn’t the first time she has submitted a proposal that specifically targets expatriates.
Summary of the Proposal
Al-Hashem’s proposal suggests that any new expatriates should be denied a driver’s license, and expatriates currently possessing a license must limit themselves to owning one car. The rule would also put several restrictions on the license procedure for current expatriates. Unless an expatriate’s license is directly tied to their work permits, a renewal will not be issued. This is intended to prevent forgeries or future policy abuses. The blanket ban will not apply to family drivers. Furthermore, the proposal suggests that no new immigrant can own a vehicle unless they’ve been explicitly issued a Kuwaiti license for a specific, work-related or family-driving purpose.
There are currently a few guidelines that expatriates must make to apply for a Kuwaiti license. For example, they must possess a university degree, meet minimum monthly salary requirements, and must have a valid residence.
Why Was the Proposal Submitted?
Al-Hashem has long been an advocate of limiting or eliminating expatriates from Kuwait. In fact, it is one of her consistent refrains when suggesting new policies, proposals, or taxation laws. She suggests that Kuwait has too many foreigners, implying that these expatriates are draining the country’s resources. This proposal will make it significantly more difficult for expatriates to make a life in Kuwait, and will likely deter anybody considering immigrating to Kuwait for professional or personal reasons.
Although these proposals continue to be pushed forward by Al-Hashem, they are widely disagreed with by the public. However, immigration bans continue to be commonplace within the Kuwait government despite opposition. In fact, the recent stir that President Trump caused in the United States by placing immigration bans on predominately Muslim nations was “old news” to Kuwait. They have been enacting similar bans for a long time, and are widely considered one of the least friendly countries for expatriates.
Similar Proposals Have Been Submitted Recently
This isn’t the first-time Al-Hashem has targeted the immigrant population in Kuwait. In fact, she does this regularly with moderate success. Al-Hashem has imposed more charges and taxes on expatriates in recent months. The demographic structure in Kuwait tends to be heavily favorable towards foreigners, and her bans, taxes, and proposals are intended to “restore” things. She has stated that the Kuwaiti government should be increasing water and electricity charges for expatriates, impose VAT (value add tax), and increase road taxes. What’s more, Al-Hashem has moved to impose a high tax on money transfers performed by expatriates; specifically, she’s pushed to raise taxes on money sent to and from their home nations. This would make it dramatically more difficult for current expatriates residing in Kuwait to continue living their lives.
Al-Hashem insists that she has “respect” for expatriates, and that her actions are merely patriotic and an attempt to restore the balance between Kuwaiti natives and immigrants. However, some of her proposals, like limiting medicine and medical care to immigrants living in Kuwait seem drastic. Lawmakers have generally been quietly accepting of Al-Hashem’s push to drive immigration volumes down. However, these new, more aggressive proposals have yet to pass through the Assembly. A final decision should be made soon.
What Impact Does This Have on Expatriates?
Current expatriates residing in Kuwait are bound to experience a significantly more difficult lifestyle soon, if Al-Hashem’s success record with getting these laws passed shows us anything. As lawmakers and the Assembly in Kuwait continue to attempt to restore the balance of Kuwaitis to expatriates (expatriates currently outnumber Kuwaiti natives at least 2:1), this proposal may be the first in a string of similar restrictive laws and taxes.
Recent taxes that have been proposed or enacted against the immigrant population in Kuwait will make living as an expatriate there increasingly expensive, driving down the number of incoming immigrants and causing many current expatriates residing there to vacate – either to a new location or their home nations. Focusing on this current proposal to limit the ability to own a car or obtain a driver’s license, it’s clear that expatriates are going to be impacted in more ways than one. While taxes and restrictions can make things financially difficult, taking away the ability to commute or drive to the grocery store, to take children to school, and to generally live daily life will have a huge negative impact on the quality of life of expatriates.
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