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New Driving License Restrictions Cause Expat Headaches in Kuwait

KuwaitKuwait has a serious traffic problem.

At peak times many of the roads in major urban areas like Kuwait City can grind to a halt, leading to frustration for locals and expats alike.

The congestion isn’t helped by the fact that no new major roads have been built in recent years to provide alternative routes.

Arguably Kuwait’s oil-fuelled economy also isn’t helping the situation. Not only are Kuwaiti’s typically quite wealthy on a global scale, making cars reasonably affordable, but of course fuel prices are characteristically low in the Middle East.

Add to this the distances that many Kuwaitis and expats alike need to travel, and the extreme climatic conditions they need to travel through, and it is little wonder that there are so many vehicles on the road in Kuwait.

The Kuwaiti government has now decided to new rules are required in order to stem traffic problems in the country. While native Kuwaitis are generally free to drive whenever and wherever they like, new rules introduced recently have caused some major headaches for expats and their families.

Even in the distant past getting a native driving license in Kuwait has never been easy for expats. In this male-oriented culture the wives of expat workers have often struggled even more than their husbands, requiring a driving license to efficiently drop the kids at school or pick up groceries for home.

In the past driving licenses have been reserved for those with the right residency visas and whose income meets a required threshold. This has made it almost impossible for expats in lower-paid roles to gain the necessary driving license.

Indeed, reports exist of numerous expats who after trying time and again to legitimately gain a driving license in Kuwait have opted to drive without a license. If caught these individuals risk serious fines or even permanent expulsion from the country.

Now, however, gaining a driving license has become even more problematic, as the Kuwaiti government has opted to only provide them to individuals with specific job titles and careers.

At the time of writing, the approved job titles according to KuwaitUp2Date are:

  • Judges, members of Public Prosecution, consultants and experts.
  • Teaching staff in the universities and applied institutes.
  • Journalists and media practitioners
  • Doctors, pharmacists and engineers
  • Teachers and social specialists
  • Researchers
  • Sports trainers
  • General Managers and their assistants
  • Managers
  • Accountants

In theory the wives of expats carrying out these roles will also qualify for a driving license, though in reality it seems that this isn’t always the case.

A number of stories have surfaced of women meeting all the necessary criteria and passing a Kuwaiti driving test, only to be told they cannot be granted a driving license and therefore must reapply.

It is also worth noting that in cases where an expat changes jobs – and in doing so their job title changes – they may also forfeit the right to possess a driving license even if they have held one in the past.

The reality for expats in Kuwait is that it is becoming ever more difficult to gain a driving license, and we may well see this impacting the number of expats currently living and working in the country.

Only time will tell whether these are permanent changes, or whether access to Kuwaiti driving licenses will be eased for the wives of hard-working expats.

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