Travel Bans in Kuwait

This morning I received a comment on my previous post asking if I could cover the topic of travel bans in Kuwait. It’s a very important topic and something that should be addressed, so I’ll do my best.

First and foremost you can check to see if you have a travel ban by following this link. Once you get to that page go to ‘E-Services’ page found on the left. I’ve posted the English version of the page.

I’ve lived in Kuwait for numerous years, have never committed a crime, had only 2 speeding tickets in my name (paid right away), and had no debt. I was not someone who would expect to have a travel ban, yet before I would travel I always had my name checked by friends in immigration ‘just in case’. Now, fortunately, we can check for ourselves by using the link above.

Just last month I was travelling for a few days and asked my husband to do my ‘just in case’ check. And sure enough, I owed a bill to Wataniya from 2009. I had taken a job in the UAE at that time and was leaving Kuwait. I cancelled my mobile phone services, OSN, and internet. But it seems because I didn’t turn in the little box thingie (woman definition) to Wataniya, I was being charged for it. This little thing looked almost like a memory stick, I truly had no clue it belonged to them… especially considering what I paid for that service at the time. Since 2009 I have departed and entered Kuwait so many times I had to have pages added to my passport — yes, THAT many times. Not once was this debt ever mentioned to me, nor did it prevent me from travelling. But, because it did show in the system this time (2012) as a travel ban, my husband went straight to the airport the day before I was to travel and paid the debt. He was handed a receipt in Arabic as well as a paper to be filed in Sulabiya. He was told as long as I showed that receipt I could travel, no problem. Also, he was NOT asked for a boarding pass. As I said, this was the day before my travel plans… I didn’t have a boarding pass. However, Mark of 28AM recently posted of an issue he faced when departing the country and said he did have to show a boarding pass. I certainly hope he was mistaken and this isn’t something they’ve recently implemented since my trip.

Also, as Mark stated, why should a travel ban be used as the first line of action?

Using a travel ban to collect debt is a very poor method, especially if it’s only discovered at immigration as you’re departing. At this point your travel is paid for (perhaps including hotels, event tickets, airline tickets for family, rental cars, etc). You’ve also already checked your bags… and sometimes even pets. Can you imagine the horror of missing the flight with all your luggage and family pet because you owe a few dinars you weren’t even aware of? I get sick thinking about it.

Collecting fines at the airport is brilliant and quite convenient. But why not allow each immigration officer do the collecting? Not necessarily the daunting task of entering it into the computer, removing the ban, and marking the debt as ‘paid’. But maybe just collecting the money, putting it into a sealed envelope, and attaching a copy of the person’s passport? This would at least allow people to make it to their flight on time.

But, why should it get to this point at all? Why not implement an SMS and email notification system when people are acquiring debt or opening accounts? I know most people have kept the same mobile number in Kuwait for a decade and many of us have used our same email address since the 90’s. Maybe they could even go a step further when opening an account and ask for the mobile number of 2 relatives or close friends, giving us the option to add other contact alternatives. This also allows people to understand how much debt they’re facing and gives them time to pay it before making travel plans. For those with smaller amounts owed it’s really not too difficult paying at the airport (if there’s no line), but what about those who have huge debt and no money to pay? They’ve just wasted money on a flight they’re going to miss which could have been applied to the debt itself.

As I said, my debt was from 2009 and it was quite minimal. I was certainly not trying to avoid paying Wataniya, I just had no clue I owed them. Had they sent even one email, or even bothered to ask for their little stick thingie back when I closed the account, it would have been resolved in 2009. If someone had mentioned it one of the numerous times I entered Kuwait in the past 3 years, I would have easily paid it then.

This post is about simple debt, not criminal cases. But even those can sometimes be resolved by paying a fine. But in the instance when a fine will not suffice, there’s a court date (hopefully people are being notified of their court dates). The hearing will either result in a fine or time in jail. People should be made aware of the amount they owe at that time, preventing them from facing issues at the airport later.

Though I do understand some people attempt to leave the country and never pay their debts, that truly isn’t the majority. Why should the typical person, trying to do the right thing, be punished for the few who didn’t?

Kuwait, you’re a wealthy country. Invest a little and make procedures which should be simple… well, simple.

42 thoughts on “Travel Bans in Kuwait

  1. Thank you AG for posting this, but further, the MOI should have an awareness campaign on this matter countrywide. Educating the public by English radio, English newspapers, and in malls for the expat community, the public should understand the procedures in handling these matters prior to travel. With a boarding card as a necessary element in settling matters at the airport is wrong. I should be able to go ahead of time and in English have someone explain to me clearly how to reconcile the matter, as simple as a phone bill. Why can’t Wataniya or Zain or OSN have a notification system other than a travel ban to highlight debt owed to them, very archaic. If it weren’t for 248AM getting caught up in this matter, none of us would know about this law, NONE OF US. That is a valuable point here. It is almost criminal that the system would violate are much earned travel outside this country that we dream about everyday to be used against us for a few KD, OUTRAGEOUS! If they don’t understand how to run their country, then take a pad and paper and fly one hour and ten minutes to the UAE and all the solutions to their problems are at their fingertips. As simple as that!

    • I think the idea of an awareness campaign is great. But travel bans aren’t a new thing in Kuwait. Not sure what they would be trying to bring attention to.

      I do believe a method of contacting people who have debt which could eventually result in a travel ban should be implemented. In cases such as mine a debt just sat there for 3 years without me ever even knowing it existed until it had finally made its way through a legal system. I suspect Mark has encountered something similar with his debt.

      As for them requiring a boarding pass before allowing you to pay the fine, that’s still under debate. In my case this wasn’t required, in Mark’s it seems it was. It could also be that he was departing during a holiday and they didn’t want the airport payment location to become crowded with people who were ‘just checking’ yet weren’t leaving.

      Thank you again for your comment and suggestions. We’re all hoping for positive changes in Kuwait.

  2. “To get this service, Please visit “Ministry Of Interior – The General Directorate Of Information Systems” in order to complete the registration and to validate the inquiry service”

    Where do we go? We really need to go to this office to set up a password – BAD LAW! Bottom line is this: You can’t run a country and ignore millions of expats that you have allowed to live in your country, if you want to run a country effectively, you MUST communicate the laws to this community so that you maintain law and order. I blame these telephone companies for not setting up a system of notification to it’s clients, you lack management skills to run your company. Again look at Du and Etilsat for direction on how to organize your company!!!!!!
    Thanks for posting this subject and getting the word out!

    • I’m really sorry the link didn’t work for you. I’ll ask my husband to check the Arabic site when he gets home to see if it also requires a password (I know he checked mine on the Arabic site).

      Though I agree the UAE is more organized, I have to disagree in regard to Du and Etisalat. I have never, in my entire life, experienced such horrible internet and mobile service as I did with them. Furthermore, Etisalat has a monopoly on the entire ‘communications’ market — they only allow Du to ‘borrow’ space on their communication towers, Du is not independent. Furthermore, you can’t even get OSN without going through Etisalat though they’re not remotely related. It’s just a way to control, monitor, censor, and make more money. Not to mention all the things blocked on the internet in the UAE. Even signing in through a proxy became impossible. Zain, Wataniya, and Viva far exceed the poor service provided by Etisalat.

  3. Thank you! If you could kindly research how we go about getting access to the MOI website or where we go to get access we would greatly appreciate it. Maybe your husband can assist a country of expats on how to navigate through this maze of confustion for us. Cheers!

    • I’ll definitely look into that today. I’ve often told my husband he should do cultural diversity courses for Expats — I used to, but I think it would have more impact coming from a local. His English is impeccable and he’s such a fun, personable guy. But, he seems to think there are already enough similar options available. But, if you ever need any assistance, please don’t hesitate to email me and I can arrange for him to assist in any area. As for ‘wasta’, we try to avoid using it so I wouldn’t suggest that option for anyone.

  4. I knew a Iranian dude who borrowed from almost ‘Every’ company in Kuwait and one fine day moved to Bahrain, that was back in 2006. So yes, not everyone is a good guy, so travel ban may be a good thing for business owners.

    • Thank you for your comment, Grey. I do believe those who are business owners or signatories for corporate finances should be in a different category. Not one that would hold people at an airport though, that’s still not the answer. But perhaps a requirement to notify immigration, in advance, of any upcoming travel. Just to ensure their finances are in order before they leave. In the instance where someone departs and never returns, leaving outstanding debt behind… well, they’ll try to come back one day. And when they do they will be forced to make proper arrangements to repay their debt.

    • Grey, is your first name Christian per chance? There is a difference between an overdue telephone bill and criminal behaviour. What you have noted is criminal behaviour and these companies should have placed a travel ban on him through the legal system. BIG DIFFERENCE!

      • So do we put our civil id number in that box? Also, I did some recon on this matter and went the Ministry of Justice desk at around 1:00 PM today. There was one lady at the desk who was not Kuwaiti and she was friendly. I asked her if I could check if I had a travel ban against me without a boarding card and she said yes, then she asked me if I was blacklisted, and I told her that I didn’t think so, but that I read in the newspaper that if I didn’t pay a telephone, water or electicity bill I could have a travel ban against me and she confirmed that as true. As I was at the desk a Kuwaiti man with a xerox copy of what appeared like a traffic ticket wanted to pay. She told me to give her my civil id and she input it in a computer confirming that I did not have a travel ban against me. You do need to pay cash or KNET and there is a Commercial Bank at the airport.So, not sure if it was my lucky day or that I got a nice person who was willing to check, but no boarding card was required to check the system. This also appears to be a good time to go to the airport because the desk was relatively quiet, but if you are Asian I would you suggest you bring a pushcart so you look like you are travelling because they seem to stop Asians from entering that area, I have an inherit ability to look invisible in Kuwait, so I just walked right through. If you are blacklisted, you are more than likely involved in some sort of court junction and my heart breaks for you to clear these types of matters – you more than likely need a good Arabic lawyer to jump through all the hoops.

        • Thank you for making the effort and checking this out for yourself. I didn’t think a boarding pass was required as I didn’t have one when we paid my debt. I also believe we went around 1pm and there was no one in line in front of us. Though there was only 1 person working. They should definitely add more staff if travel bans to collect debt are going to be the ‘norm’ now.

          Again, thank you for this update!

          • I don’t think that Mark at 248AM was lying, I think the person that he dealt with required it, and I got a friendly lady and she was very helpful. I agree there should ALWAYS be more than one person at this desk. There were departing passengers, but not many of the flights were leaving at that time and I FEAR that during peak hours, there may be a queue. I also popped into the Zain office to check out your story, so I told the woman that I was leaving Kuwait in a few months and I was wondering what was needed to clear my account with them (one of the companies that is putting travel bans on people). I asked her if I needed to return the sim card, she said no, but that I need to close my account with them. I spoke to a gentleman about your story and apparently, yes, around 2009 there used to be this memory stick for WIFI internet and he ran into a whole drama with Zain (Wataniya I believe at the time? Maybe) returning this key, where he had to go the headquarters and they roughed him around, then it was such a drawn out procedure that he got power of attorney for his mandoub to handle the matter with Zain, but they did threaten him. I think he told me that they don’t have this stick anymore? I think that was your problem. I think by paying it in 2012 with a travel ban was easier 🙂 in all honesty. I inquired who owns Zain, because I thought the Qatari’s bought it, but they bought Wataniya. One of the reasons why I did this recon today was not for myself, I know I have no travel ban, it was to analyze the process and to understand the problems. I am well prepared to draft a formal letter to the headquarters to highlight the problems customers face by their inability to implement civil controls (an organizational system of payment). I am fearless to attack the top here, but I usually go for the juggler vain abroad. Do you understand? There are problems, the volcano is about to erupt at that desk at the airport and it will be with a Kuwaiti, not an expat, I believe. The lady in Zain who could have been related to Herman Munster with her tatooed eyebrows was very rude and demanded that a poor Egyptian man have a boarding card to speak to him. This is a very racist country, so the people that will suffer the most will be expats that are not Western and that is wrong, there should be the same rules for everyone. Travel bans should be issued by the court, not for minimal payments like Mark at 248AM had to pay, and my guess is that it was something dated like your situation with a telephone company and that is bull**it and pure ineffeciency on their part as a company. I realize that travel bans have been used commonly in this society, but this has reached a new low.

          • Thanks again for your comment and efforts.

            I certainly don’t think Mark was being dishonest about his experience either — I believe it’s just further evidence of yet another process with no guidelines. I wasn’t asked for a boarding pass and went the day before my flight, he went at the same time of his flight and was required to show one. Seems the process hasn’t been streamlined and probably never will be. I’m hoping this new trend of travel bans to collect a debt will disappear as quickly as some other ‘brilliant’ ideas they’ve implemented over the years.

            It’s good to know I’m not the only person who experienced complete confusion over the ‘memory stick modem’ issued by Wataniya years ago. I can’t recall exactly, but I want to say getting that completely inefficient internet source cost me almost 200KD (up front costs) back in 07/08 — I had the service a year or so. But that didn’t even include actual service… I have to charge the SIM card inside the device to get an internet connection. So, you can understand why I thought 200KD covered the cost of the stick thing. Too bad I was mistaken.

            Surely other expats (non-Western or Arab) are going to face more complications. Sadly this is the case with many things the encounter in Kuwait. However, the discrimination leads them to use less than honest alternatives in obtaining driver’s licenses, getting family visas, etc. Then Kuwait faces the issue of their illegal actions. Resulting in discrimination. It’s a terrible catch 22.

            Again, thanks for your detailed explanation and time invested in checking out this process.

  5. Interesting article in today’s paper on this subject that outlines statistics, but this does not highlight why there are 53,000 travel bans on residents and how these can be minimized in the system. Here goes some statistics.

    Nearly 53,000 Kuwaitis and expatriates living in Kuwait are banned from traveling for different reasons, though mostly for being in debt, while there were 26,000 subpoenas issued against indebted individuals. The statistics show that the number of Kuwaitis wanted by authorities is larger than the number of expatriates, (doesn’t surprise me) where the highest number,which indicates that nearly 13,500 subpoenas were issued for residents in Al-Ahmadi, Mubarak Al-Kabeer, and Al-Jahra, which includes a majority of Kuwaiti citizens. On the other hand, the number of expatriates banned from travelling exceeds that of Kuwaitis, as shown by the statistics, (based on the number of orders per governante) which reports that governorates with dominating expat populations, such as Hawally and Farwaniya, have the largest numbers of travel bans, with 11,971 and 17,245 respectively. (How do these people get access to debt?) A question would be what are these travel bans in these two governantes which house mainly labourers and low-level income expats? The statistics further indicate that the 52,708 travel ban orders issued as of Aug 1, 2012 are actually a significant drop from a previous reading taken on June 1, 2012 when there were some 88,000.(Could this be because of the high travel season and many of these expats settled debts before travelling?)This would mean the system is working.

  6. I was wondering if anyone can recommend a Attorney for me as I have a travel ban from a case of a former friend that was visiting Kuwait and placed a case against me saying I owe him 400kd. I have checked the site and does not show that I have a Travel Ban but in fact I do have one. I am trying to depart the Country as my Contract is up and will be reported as a Absconder if I don’t leave the Country. Since I have the travel Ban I cannot leave. Can someone recommend a Attorney that does not charge to much money as I have closed my NBK account and transferred my money stateside so I have access to very little money.

    • Unfortunately I don’t know of an Attorney who can help you get that removed without a court date, a hearing, etc. Which could possibly end up being more than the amount of the travel ban itself. It’s probably going to be easier for you to just go to the airport (before you travel) and pay the fine there. They will give you a receipt showing you’ve paid which allows you to leave the country. It could take weeks for it to be removed from the system, so don’t forget the receipt in case they ask for it at immigration.

    • If you aren’t on the system then you don’t have a travel ban? Who told you you did have? your friend or you actually have been notified by authorities that you have one?

      • Thank you so much for this reply. You’re exactly right and I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that when I replied. Being ‘in the system’ is what constitutes a travel ban. If your name isn’t in the system then there’s no ban. Maybe a case filed against you, but that doesn’t equal a travel ban.

      • I was told by authorities that I have a travel ban for this case, but I cannot pull it up on the system. I was also told that I cannot pay the amount that the friend said that I owe him and that I have to wait until it go to the courts and the case closed which is taking months. It has been since Aug and the case still has not been in the Courts.

        • I’m really sorry you’re going through so many issues with this case. It’s odd they won’t just allow you to pay it and leave. Why go to a hearing? Did they say? Are there other crimes involved? Have you contacted an Attorney to have them check exactly what’s on file under your name? Wishing you all the best.

    • Hi Beth, that’s correct. A case being filed against you doesn’t necessarily mean a travel ban. It could just mean you have an upcoming court date in which you would need to attend and settle whatever the charges are. Obviously if you’re found guilty this could quite possibly lead to a travel ban. If you are still unsure and want to be on the safe side, you can always go to the airport and just check with an immigration officer. They’ll gladly find out for you. But, when you’re checking your name in the system, are you checking using your passport number or Civil ID number? I found out the reason I never knew about my 4 year old Wataniya bill is because I was coming in and out of Kuwait using a passport and not a Civil ID — my ID number was the one registered in the system, not the passport.

      Best of luck, please let us know how it goes and what you find out. Wish I could be of more assistance.

      • Thank you for a quick response. As to your question, I used my Civil ID to check in the system. I have to try your suggestion to check to an immigration officer to be sure. Do you think that the immigration officer will entertain my enquiry eventhough I will not travelling on the said date?

        • Hi Beth, you’re most welcome, I just wish I had more information to provide. I certainly think an Immigration Officer would gladly check for you even if you’re not going to travel on that day. They’ll understand you want to rectify any issues before you do travel — or at least I hope so. If you have a case pending against you do you know if it’s criminal or financial? Some things can simply be taken care of by paying the debt or paying a fine. Other things will require an actual court date and a sentencing (even if just a fine) by a Judge.

          • Hi American Girl, the case against me is financial as I act as guarantor for a cash loan for a person who did not come back to Kuwait anymore.

          • Hi Beth,

            That’s very unfortunate as it’s my understanding until the debt is paid you will not be allowed to leave the country. However, I do believe it’s possible to have someone else sign stating they will be liable for the debt should you not pay and this eliminates your obligation and would lift the case. Finding someone to do that will probably be a difficult task.

    • You can ask the Mandoub of your company to check for you, or you can pop into the airport and ask any agent at the Kuwait Airways counter to help, or, you can try this site.

    • And if your question is regarding an entry ban and not an exit ban (and you’re outside of the country), you can call someone at the airport in Kuwait to check for you. However, most entry bans will deal with criminal cases which have resulted in a ban from re-entering the country.

    • I wrote this post so many years ago and so much has certainly changed with the system that it would be difficult for me to give you an appropriate response. However, I would assume ‘special travel prevention’ probably means there’s a conditional travel ban. Perhaps not for a criminal reason, but maybe a financial one? Once you pay the debt you can travel. You would certainly know if you had been arrested and jailed for any crimes and would also know (or should know) if anyone has filed a case against you. If neither of those have happened then I suggest you ask a Mandoub to check exactly what the ban is for and then resolve it as soon as possible.

      Hope it all works out for you.

  7. Well I have ran into something interesting. I have been in and out of Kuwait since 2013 with no issues what so ever. June 15th 2015, I left for a two week vacation, as my contract ended, had my civil ID cancelled. I came back on June 30th. Got my new 90 day visa, no problems. I left to go to Dubai on Aug 4th and turned in my visa and was stamped out with no problems. I flew back on Aug 14 I was asked if I paid a fine when I left. I said I was told nothing about owing any fines, but I would be happy to pay any. I was told I was banned from entering the country and was flown back to Dubai. They said there was a traffic violation against me for driving without a license and I could pay the fine online or take care of it in Dubai. I flew back to Dubai, logged into the MOI website and have not violations, fines, or fees against me. Looked at the travel ban website and have no travel bans against me. Called my sponsor and he sent me paperwork that says I have no violations against me and to come back and if they stop me again, show them the paperwork. I flew back and was deported again back to Dubai. They could not tell me anything about any infraction other than there was a travel ban against me. Since I didn’t have a new civil ID yet, I could only try and enter using my passport. So I am back in Dubai until my sponsor can figure something out, which could take a week or two at lease. I was stunned since I knew nothing about this, I have never gotten a ticket, and I use a driver, although the car is leased to me. I found it strange that I could not pay whatever fine they set against me and removed the ban. I also emailed an attorney to see if they could find anything out. Very strange and frustrating, since I have lived in Kuwait for 2 years and all my possessions are still in my apartment. :/

    • Is it possible you’re just not being allowed back in because you haven’t been gone to Dubai long enough? I know they’ve changed the laws regarding how long a person should be out of the country before entering on a visa again. The ‘visa run’ is no longer a viable option. I once flew out to Bahrain for a day (a few years back) and returned the same day only to be told, “there’s a block against you”. I was shocked and had no idea why I would be blocked from entering the country. He explained I hadn’t been out of the country long enough but willingly removed the ‘block’ and let me enter. Perhaps that’s the problem you’re facing?

  8. Nope! They say it was due to “driving without a license.” Paid $6000 later and the ban is removed just like that. Seems more like a shake down.

  9. hi i have a court order regarding financial unpaid bill in zain i dont have travel ban it is possible i can travel outside kuwait for 1 month vacation. i confused in travel ban and court order because when i check my travel ban i dont have travel ban .thank you

    • Hi Ching. I suggest you pay the bill before leaving the country if possible. Even if there isn’t a travel ban it will just prevent you from facing any issues. And, if it’s just a small Zain bill it shouldn’t be too much of an issue for you. I do hope it works out.

      Go to one of the airport counters at the airport and have them double check your passport just in case.

  10. hii.. i had a travel ban due to an unpaid bill, and i was caught by police during one of the security bchecks,and then they took me to the sulaibiya police station. from there they told me to ask someone to go to airport and pay the amount and bring the paper, one of my friend went to the airport and paid and they gave an arabic paper showing the details. then the policemen told me i can go. but my issue is still now in the MOI website it is showing i have a travel ban . i had paid the amount around 1 month before. why they are not updating?

    • Don’t panic. They’re not always the fastest to update too much there. Just make sure you keep your receipt and any other proof you have that your debt is paid. When you travel show it to them if they ask. You can also visit the airport location before you travel and explain that you’ve paid (show your proof) and ask them if they can update the system right there with you present.

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