After the relevant authorities dealt successive heavy blows to fictitious companies and profiteers from the visa trade, this suspicious activity has resurfaced while the country is barely breathing from the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Al-Qabas daily. The daily monitored the return of the visa trade phenomenon, especially with the spread of advertisements on social media through which brokers are offering work permits and commercial visit visas, as well as facilitating transfer of residency, with each transaction having a cost. A remarkable observation was that the brokers relied on a new angle to recruit workers, which is the commercial visa, the price of which has reached KD 400, with duration of only one month, and is non-transferable. The cost of a transferable commercial visa is up to KD 1,000.

According to the daily, the price of a free work visa ranges between KD 1,500 and KD 1,700. The person who purchases it obtains a residency title that is linked to his academic qualification, if any. Other brokers did not stop their activity with the promotion of free work visas. They went on to announce the availability of the facility of residency transfer between companies with government, civil or craft contracts, with the transfer cost ranging between KD 500 and KD 650. For the visa of a “driver” position, the cost is KD 700.

According to an official source from the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM), the majority of brokers of shell companies are active in Egypt and India for attracting job seekers in Kuwait. He highlighted the continued pursuit of these shell companies and visa-traders, indicating that the referral of about 2,000 such companies to the prosecution since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed hundreds of those involved in the introduction of marginal workers into the country. The source stressed that the Labor Protection Sector and the Inspection Department deal daily with dozens of complaints, adding that investigations are underway to figure out if there is a link between them and the visa trade phenomenon. The daily contacted an official of a travel and tourism agency in Egypt.

Affirming that it holds a license in Cairo, he indicated the availability of commercial visas for those who wish to travel to Kuwait, but these visas cannot be converted into residencies. When a security source was asked about this announcement, he said, “This type of visa allows the holder to convert it into a residence permit on the applicant’s file only. However, it seems that the file approved for granting visas does not contain a sufficient labor estimate. It is therefore used on a monthly basis for new visits.”

The source highlighted that there is a vigorous follow-up of the matter related to issuing and transferring commercial visas. He said, “In the event of suspicions revolving around the files, coordination is carried out with the Public Authority for Manpower. Accordingly, measures are taken in this regard”. Despite the repeated warnings issued by the Public Authority for Manpower regarding the lack of the so-called “free” work permit in the country, the brokers, using fake accounts, still delude their victims, especially young individuals who wish to come to Kuwait, into thinking that the opportunity to work with this type of visa is distinct and they can work anywhere in the country.

The cost of a free visa ranges between KD 1,500 and KD 1,700 and has a duration of one year. It was clear in the repeated advertisements that there are other countries that have become more willing for workers to reach them, such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar, to work there, given that the visa system is easier than the system in Kuwait where government procedures have become very severe in an attempt to fight the phenomenon of visa trading.

It was clear from the comments on social media of an ongoing dialogue between brokers and those wishing to obtain work visas to Kuwait that the conditions of PAM regarding issuing new work permits, linking them to academic qualifications, and estimating the need for each file of employment, have proven to be a dilemma for the visa-traders. In some adverts, they stipulated the necessity of having an academic qualification certificate stamped and certified by the Kuwaiti embassy and higher education authority in the country of issuance in order to be able to issue the permit with the required title. According to an official source from PAM, there will be zero tolerance for the phenomenon of residency trade. Random recruitment of workers into the country will not be allowed. He stressed that protecting employment and improving Kuwait’s reputation is a top priority for the labor protection sector and the inspection department, where complaints are daily dealt with and investigated to determine the causes of labor problems, as well as to figure out if there is a link between them and the visatrade. The source highlighted the continuous coordination with the Residency Affairs Investigations Department of the Ministry of Interior in this regard.

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