Kuwait City: Residency permits of more than 38,000 expats were cancelled last year as they were stuck outside the country and unable to renew them, according to a local newspaper.
Of those, around 20,000 expats themselves cancelled their residency permits.
The departure of a large number of residents reduced the total population of Kuwait by 4 per cent in the past year.
Expats who have an expired residency are unable to return to the country unless their employer renews their residency or they enter on a new visa.
The renewal process can be done online, giving those outside Kuwait the ability to do it without any issues.
Also, the Ministry of Interior stopped issuing new visas since the pandemic began a year and a half ago.
Those who have renewed their visas have been allowed to re-enter Kuwait even though they spent more than six months outside the country. The government, until further notice, has suspended the rule that if residency holders spend more than six months outside of Kuwait then their visa remains cancelled.
Before the pandemic hit, Kuwait saw the highest number of expats in 2020 compared to the past 30 years. Expats make up 70 per cent of the Kuwaiti population, with around three million of the total 4.1 million.
Many expats were unable to return to Kuwait in the past year and a half due to airport closures and travel restrictions.
The first shut down of the airport happened on March 13, 2020 over growing fear of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On August 1, after a five-month halt, the airport reopened but with new health measures put in place. Most notably was, and is still in effect, the ban on barring passengers arriving from 35 “high risk countries” from travelling to Kuwait directly.
Then on December 21, Kuwait closed its airport, including its land and sea borders, over growing concern of the new COVID strain that was emerging in the United Kingdom and Europe. Two weeks later, the airport was reopened but a quota was implemented dictating that no more than 1,000 passengers can arrive in Kuwait a day.
Since February 7, non-Kuwaitis were barred from entering Kuwait until further notice. The ban is supposed to be lifted on August 1, which will allow residents that are vaccinated to enter the country.