Reviewed February 2024
Kuwait stands as an appealing destination for expatriates from across the globe, resulting in a foreign population constituting nearly 70 percent of its residents. However, a clear distinction exists between inhabiting Kuwait through a residence permit and enjoying the privileges of citizenship, as the advantages bestowed upon Kuwaiti citizens differ significantly from those available to foreigners.
While avenues for attaining citizenship in Kuwait do exist, the pathway is intricate and not without challenges. Notably, Kuwait ranks amongst the nations renowned for their stringent processes of granting citizenship. In this article, Wego will guide you on the requirements and implications of acquiring Kuwait citizenship.
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Kuwait citizenship rules
Citizenship in Kuwait is regulated by the Kuwait nationality law, initially published in 1959. This law establishes criteria for identifying Original Kuwaitis and their descendants while also providing guidelines for granting citizenship to individuals who seek it on a suitable basis.
Original Kuwaiti nationals refer to individuals who were residing in Kuwait prior to 1920 and maintained their residence there until the enactment of this law. Additionally, the descendants of these original Kuwaitis who still live within the country are also included within this category.
Even if an original Kuwaiti resides in a different country but has intentions of returning to Kuwait, their primary residence is still considered to be in Kuwait.
Citizenship by birth
The acquisition of Kuwaiti citizenship through birth is subject to the following conditions:
- individuals born to a Kuwaiti father, regardless of their location (inside or outside Kuwait), are granted Kuwaiti nationality
- individuals born within Kuwait whose parents’ identities are unknown are automatically recognized as Kuwaiti nationals. In cases where children are discovered with unknown parentage, the assumption is that they were born in Kuwait unless evidence suggests otherwise
- a Decree, based on the recommendation of the Minister of the Interior, can confer Kuwaiti nationality to an individual born to a Kuwaiti mother whose father’s identity is undisclosed or lacks legal confirmation of paternity. This provision becomes applicable once the individual reaches adulthood and is not contingent on their place of birth
Kuwait citizenship requirements
As mentioned earlier, there are established avenues through which non-Kuwaiti nationals can seek Kuwaiti citizenship. It’s important to underline that individuals who obtain Kuwaiti citizenship are mandated to renounce their prior citizenship within a three-month period, as Kuwait does not acknowledge dual citizenship. Here are the pathways available for acquiring Kuwaiti citizenship, along with their respective requirements.
Kuwait citizenship by naturalization
Kuwaiti nationality can be granted by Decree, based on the recommendation of the Minister of the Interior, to any adult who fulfills the following criteria:
- legal residence in Kuwait for a minimum of 20 consecutive years (or 15 years for Arab nationals)
- possession of a legitimate source of income
- absence of convictions for crimes involving honor or integrity
- proficiency in the Arabic language
- provision of essential services within Kuwait
- original Muslim status by birth or conversion to Islam with at least 5 years of adherence to the Islamic faith
A committee comprised of Kuwaiti nationals, designated by the Minister of the Interior, will evaluate applications for naturalization and recommend suitable candidates in line with these stipulations.
Note that individuals who acquire Kuwaiti nationality through naturalization are not eligible to vote in any Parliamentary election for a period of 30 years from the date of their naturalization.
Kuwait citizenship by marriage
Kuwaiti citizenship can be obtained through marriage, with the following pathways:
Foreign wife of a Kuwaiti national
- the foreign wife of a Kuwaiti national can seek Kuwaiti citizenship if she expresses the desire to become Kuwaiti
- foreign wives can apply for citizenship after 18 years of marriage, while female citizens of Arab countries can apply after 10 years from the time of expressing their wish. The Interior Minister holds the authority to shorten this waiting period
- the Kuwaiti husband must be a Muslim to be able to pass on citizenship to his wife
- if a husband is naturalized as a Kuwaiti citizen, it doesn’t automatically extend citizenship to his wife. The wife needs to express her desire for citizenship within one year of her husband’s naturalization
Children and citizenship
- children born to a foreign father who has acquired Kuwaiti citizenship are considered Kuwaiti citizens by birth
- these children have the option to choose either Kuwaiti citizenship or the nationality of their parent upon reaching the age of maturity
- divorce typically does not result in the revocation of citizenship
- if the husband obtains another nationality, the wife does not lose her Kuwaiti citizenship unless she voluntarily decides to renounce it
Children’s citizenship and father’s naturalization
- children might not retain Kuwaiti citizenship if their father becomes a naturalized citizen in another country
Kuwaiti women’s citizenship and marriage to foreign nationals
- A Kuwaiti woman marrying a foreign national does not automatically forfeit her Kuwaiti citizenship unless she applies for citizenship in her husband’s country
Under current regulations, Kuwaiti women cannot grant citizenship to foreign husbands. Therefore, when a foreign man weds a Kuwaiti woman, he does not automatically become eligible for Kuwaiti citizenship. Similarly, their children are not automatically entitled to Kuwaiti citizenship unless the foreign father passes away, becomes a prisoner of war, or is divorced from the Kuwaiti mother.
Nevertheless, there have been ongoing discussions about the potential revision of this rule to potentially permit foreign husbands and children of Kuwaiti women to be considered for naturalization.
Kuwait citizenship through other criteria
Beyond the aforementioned methods, there are additional criteria that can lead to the granting of Kuwaiti citizenship to foreign nationals:
Recognition for valuable services
- individuals who have contributed significant and valuable services to Kuwait can be considered for citizenship
Kuwaiti mother and foreign father scenario
- children born to a Kuwaiti mother, residing in Kuwait until reaching adulthood, whose foreign father has permanently divorced the mother or passed away can be treated as Kuwaiti nationals until they come of age. The Minister of the Interior holds the authority to implement this provision
Arab residents before 1945
- Arabs from other Arab countries who have established residence in Kuwait prior to 1945 and have continued to live there until the time of the naturalization Decree may be considered for citizenship
Non-Arab residents before 1930
- non-Arab individuals who have maintained residence in Kuwait since before 1930 and continue to reside there until the naturalization Decree can also be eligible for citizenship
- ancestral residence and the residence of descendants are both taken into account, especially if the descendant was born and presently resides in Kuwait
- verification of residence will be necessary as part of the application process
Kuwait citizenship benefits
Obtaining Kuwaiti citizenship opens the door to a wealth of valuable advantages and opportunities. Beyond its legal implications, Kuwaiti nationality comes with a suite of benefits that significantly enhance one’s quality of life. The government’s robust commitment to citizens’ welfare positions Kuwait among the countries with the highest standards of living.
Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy as a Kuwaiti citizen:
- eligibility for food ration cards that provide access to subsidized food items
- access to a spectrum of government-provided social services, including counseling and financial assistance
- pension recipients can opt for advance pension payments
- unemployed divorced women can apply for shares repayment from the Public Institution for Social Security
- in case of a family member’s demise, the family is entitled to a death grant from the Public Institution for Social Security
- comprehensive healthcare services at public hospitals are offered free of charge. Additionally, if medical travel is required, the government covers the expenses.