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Moving to Kuwait is seen as a smart career move for thousands of expats wanting to improve their salaries and job prospects.
Around 7,000 Brits live in Kuwait, enjoying the warm weather, low tax rates and cultural diversity.
That might not seem many, but around two-thirds of the 4.2 million population are expats attracted from around the world.
Low fuel prices, outstanding education and good healthcare models are driven by the global investment in the Kuwaiti oil industry, which is the sixth-largest in the world. There are also excellent social welfare services ensuring good living standards for everyone.
Still, knowing how the infrastructure works and experiencing a complex culture for yourself can be very different scenarios. In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of what it’s like to relocate to Kuwait – and all the pros and cons.
Table of contents
- Reasons For Moving To Kuwait
- Visas and Residency for UK Nationals in Kuwait
- Best Places for British Expats to Live in Kuwait
- Cost of Living in Kuwait
- Healthcare in Kuwait
- Schools and Education in Kuwait for Expat Families
- Choosing Accommodation in Kuwait
- Driving in Kuwait
- Frequently Asked Questions about Living in Kuwait
- Related Articles and Insights
- Questions or Comments?
Reasons For Moving To Kuwait
Leaving your home and setting up a new life overseas is an exciting opportunity with considerable risk.
Here let’s look at some of the reasons so many expats choose Kuwait as their new home:
- Low taxes. There is no income tax in Kuwait, meaning that even where living costs are higher or salaries slightly lower, take-home pay remains advantageous. Particularly for higher-rate taxpayers in the UK, this is a lucrative benefit.
- Large expat community. With so many international expats, Kuwait is a true melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. British expats will find many clubs, societies, sports groups, and social clubs to get involved with.
- Economic stability. As we’ve mentioned, the Kuwaiti oil industry is the foundation of the country’s success. Oil production makes up around 50% of GDP and 90% of government income. This income has supported enhanced public education systems and valuable social security benefits.
- Employment opportunities. Millions of expats choose Kuwait to work in the oil sector, financial industry, marketing, sales, and business development. There are many multinational employers, Kuwaiti owned businesses and public sector roles.
- Warm weather. Kuwait is surrounded by desert and has rainfall of about 115mm a year (compared to 885 in the UK). Summers can be intensely hot, getting up to 50 °C in the shade and dipping to O °C in the winter.
Among these compelling reasons to consider Kuwait, it’s essential to acknowledge the importance of religion in the country.
Most Kuwaiti locals are Sunni Muslims, and Islam is a pivotal part of culture and society.
Products commonplace in the UK are illegal, including alcohol and pork, and while the culture is pretty westernised, there are distinct differences and traditions to be aware of.
Open-minded about where to live in the Gulf region? Check out the Top 10 Middle East Countries For Expats.
Visas and Residency for UK Nationals in Kuwait
All UK nationals looking to move to Kuwait will need a visa or an entry permit. The immigration system depends on having a sponsor, either a Kuwaiti citizen or a business who will vouch for the expat during their stay.
Should a permit holder violate a law or regulation, the employer or sponsor is held responsible and can be liable.
Short-Stay Kuwait Visas
Visitor visas are valid for up to 90 days, and overstaying that period is fined at 10 KWD (£24) per day. The permit costs 3 KWD (£7) and takes around two working days to issue. You can apply online through the Kuwait eVisa platform.
Work permits for Kuwait
Residency visas are called iqama and are issued provided you have an offer of employment from a government organisation or private enterprise in Kuwait.
The employer must apply on your behalf and is then issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC), allowing entry into the country.
The visa itself is not dispensed until you arrive in Kuwait. Expats must provide medical certificates and undergo tests for HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis.
You can apply for a Kuwaiti Civil ID when you have a residency visa, called the bitaqa-al madaniyah. You must apply within 30 days of receiving your visa.
Dependent Visa for Expats in Kuwait
If a male expat has a residency permit, they can sponsor their wife and children to join them. However, there are limits to this visa route:
- Employees must earn at least 650 KWD (£1,543) per month.
- Public sector workers are eligible if they earn at least 450 KWD (£1,068) a month.
- All dependents must provide the same medical certifications.
- Female expats cannot sponsor a husband – the system is only open to male expats married to women.
- Dependent visas are not granted to male children aged 21 or over.
- Any dependents wishing to work in Kuwait must apply for a separate work visa and have an independent sponsor.
For Kuwaitis thinking about getting permanent residency in the UK, look at the Tier 1 Investor Visa guide.
Best Places for British Expats to Live in Kuwait
Kuwait’s population is fast-growing, with around 70% of people expats and continued developments and business expansions.
Some of the most popular places for expats to live are as below:
The capital, and one of the best places to find a job. Security in the city is high, and there are excellent quality schools. However, the costs of living in Kuwait City can be prohibitive.
Salmiya is in the southeast; Salmiya is the largest city in the region and has a mixture of residential and commercial districts. However, the inner city is primarily residential, and there are great travel networks.
The name of this city means capital, and Al Asimah is one of the six governorate cities in the country. This area is popular with business owners and has several hotels and attractions, including the Liberation Tower, the tallest telecom tower globally. It is also home to The Avenues Mall and well-known hotel brands, making the neighbourhood popular with tourists.
A beautiful residential city to the south of Kuwait City. Mahboula is a little more laid back, with more leisure activities and a chosen destination for young expats.
It is home to the Kuwait Zoo and the airport. This district is more affordable living accommodation and has more traditional older buildings than new apartment blocks.
Explicitly designed for western expats, this city is in the oil refinery district and offers a range of newer homes. Prices are relatively affordable, and most residents are expats.
A prestigious area with prices to match and high living standards. This area has large, wealthy homes and several restaurants and attractions.
Favoured by expat families given the proximity to some of the best schools in the region, including the Bayan Bilingual School, The English Academy and Fajr Al Sabah.
Cost of Living in Kuwait
Kuwait is comparably cheap when contrasted with the average UK living costs. For example, a family of four will need to budget around 765 KWD (£1,830) a month for living expenses, excluding accommodation.
A single person will need an average of 206 KWD (£493) per month, again excluding rent.
Nationally, Kuwait is 30% cheaper for consumer prices and around 1.9% more affordable for housing costs.
The below table shows general living expenses comparing Kuwaiti and UK averages:
|Expense||Average Cost in Kuwait (KWD)||Average Cost in Kuwait (GBP)||Average Cost in the UK (GBP)|
|Monthly utilities||13 KWD||£31||£155|
|Monthly broadband||8 KWD||£19.50||£31|
|Monthly public transport pass||12.50 KWD||£30||£65|
|Litre of fuel||0.10 KWD||£0.23||£1.26|
|Nursery fees per month||88 KWD||£210||£935|
|International school fees per year||2,075 KWD||£4,918||£13,340|
|Monthly rent for a one-bed city centre apartment||273 KWD||£653||£749|
|Monthly rent for a three-bed non-central home||419 KWD||£1,001||£964|
|Cup of coffee||1.46 KWD||£3.50||£2.75|
|Bottle of water||0.15 KWD||£0.35||£0.96|
|Meal out for two||15 KWD||£36||£50|
|Property price per square metre in city centres||1,911 KWD||£4,567||£4,280|
|Property price per square metre outside of city centres||972 KWD||£2,323||£3,000|
Is Kuwait an expensive place to live?
Costs of living in Kuwait very much depend on where you live and your lifestyle. Generally, they’re very similar to those in the UK.
While the lack of income tax means your employment income is likely to be higher, the average salary in Kuwait is about 1,260 KWD a month (£2,998) compared to £3,216 a month in the UK.
Food and general groceries cost around the same. Still, imported produce and Western brands can be substantially more expensive, so it’s best to stick to regional alternatives or locally manufactured products.
Alcohol is prohibited with some exemptions, such as in private gatherings. The average costs where it is permitted are a little lower than in the UK.
Most public services, including electricity, water and gas, are owned by the government and subsidised to control living costs, and utilities are cheap. However, it’s worth remembering that you will need air conditioning, particularly in the blisteringly hot summers, which can ramp up your general charges.
Average household budgets per month are as below in GBP:
|Average for a single person||Average for a couple||Average for a couple with two children|
Healthcare in Kuwait
Expats moving to Kuwait will need private health insurance before a visa is granted.
Kuwait has a mixture of public and private hospitals.
However, you’ll usually need to pay a deposit or have proof of insurance to be admitted to a private facility for treatment.
To access any healthcare services, you will need your civil ID or passport and visa to prove your eligibility.
Note that some prescription medications from the UK are illegal in Kuwait. Therefore, it is essential to gain permission from the Kuwaiti authorities before travelling to the country with prescription drugs.
The healthcare system itself is of a high standard.
All legal residents qualify for low-cost state healthcare. Some employers also offer remuneration packages that include private healthcare plans.
Vaccinations are provided free of charge at public clinics, and all children must have a tuberculosis vaccine before attending a Kuwaiti school.
Make sure you get the correct expat healthcare insurance and cover while travelling or living in Kuwait.
Schools and Education in Kuwait for Expat Families
The availability of international schools and English language tuition is a crucial concern for British expat families. Kuwait scores highly in this area, with a variety of private schools.
Several schools cater specifically to British expats and children of Indian, Pakistani and American nationals.
Many schools in Kuwait follow structures similar to the UK national curriculum and/or the International Baccalaureate programme.
International schools all require students to learn Arabic, with English a mandatory language in state schools.
Fees for private schooling vary considerably but range from around 350 KWD to 5,000 KWD a year (£831 – £11,871). School fees tend to increase the older the age of the child.
Choosing Accommodation in Kuwait
Most Kuwaiti homes are spacious, with apartments much larger than you’d expect to find in a typical UK flat. Many apartments also have separate maid’s quarters since employing live-in home help is common.
Family homes tend to be built around central majilis. These are places for sitting, and a traditional Arabic home feature is usually just inside the front door.
There are limits on the property that foreign nationals are allowed to buy. However, if you become a permanent resident, have a clean criminal record and have the cash to purchase a Kuwaiti property, you can do so.
Properties purchased by foreign nationals with permanent residency status in Kuwait must be:
- Your only property in Kuwait.
- No larger than 1,000 square metres.
- Used only as a home.
Many expats rent properties or purchase through a company. Rentals come in a significant number of options, from skyscraper apartments to family homes, known as villas.
Much of the residential housing in Kuwait is built on compounds or communities. Most have a range of apartment buildings and standalone houses, often with swimming pools, play areas and communal tennis courts.
Compounds can be a great way to meet fellow expats and live a straightforward life with most on-site amenities.
However, it does mean limited interaction with the local community and can be somewhat shut off from the everyday Kuwaiti experience.
In terms of rental prices:
- A three-bedroom apartment usually costs around 500 to 800 KWD per month (£1,187 – £1,900).
- One-bedroom apartments start at 200 KWD per month (£475).
- Standalone villas usually cost from 2,500 KWD (£5,935) per month and significantly more for expansive family properties.
There are some local real estate agents, although many private landlords advertise in the local media.
Driving in Kuwait
Most people in Kuwait have a car, and given the minimal fuel prices, owning a car is affordable.
You cannot import a car when moving to Kuwait, and only residents are permitted to import vehicles. New vehicles can be costly, so most expats opt to purchase a used car.
The emission standards in the country are not as high as in the UK. Hence, many expats sell a vehicle locally if they relocate, rather than exporting a car that would require modifications to be road legal in another nation, so there are usually plenty of vehicles for sale.
Another option is to lease or rent a car from a local agency. These tend to be reliable and a cost-effective way of travelling.
The public transport system is limited, consisting only of buses operated by the Kuwait Public Transportation Company or CityBus. Routes cover most of the densely populated areas but aren’t nationwide.
Buses fares are cheap, costing around £1 per journey. Seats in the front of buses are reserved for women, and men sit at the back.
You can also find taxis almost everywhere but need to agree on the fare before the vehicle leaves since cabs do not use meters or set fares.
While there are plans to introduce a railway and metro system, expats tend to purchase a car rather than rely on bus timetables in the meantime.
Frequently Asked Questions about Living in Kuwait
Expats outnumber Kuwaitis three to one, and a fair few are Brits.
Relocating to Kuwait can be a culture shock as the heat, unfamiliar religion and different laws and customs get used to.
But tax-free salaries and a luxury lifestyle go some way towards balancing the impact of living in a Gulf nation. Here are some most asked questions about life in Kuwait from expats – and their answers.
To work in Kuwait, you will need an offer of employment to apply for a work visa. In addition, most visas will require background checks.
There are millions of expats living in Kuwait. Although there has been talk of limiting the sectors in which businesses can employ expats favouring locals, there remain multiple opportunities. Much of these centre around the oil sector, and demand from internationals and multinationals looking for foreign expats with English fluency and accreditations or qualifications is high.
The economy is dominated by oil, with around 104 million barrels in reserve, accounting for over 8% of the worldwide reserves. Manufacturing also centres on oil-rated products and generally involves producing exports for the overseas market.
Growing sectors include financial services, business services and real estate.
The official language of Kuwait is Arabic, with Kuwaiti Arabic used for day-to-day life. However, English is also widely spoken and is the primary language for business transactions and trading.
All children are taught English as a mandatory topic in schools. However, many people also speak Farsi.
As an Islamic country, Kuwait follows Sharia Law, influenced by religious principles. Therefore, there are some substantial differences between Kuwait and the UK laws, which expats should be well-versed in before relocating.
Court systems work based on a person being innocent until proven otherwise. Generally, somebody accused of a crime will be required to produce between two and four eyewitnesses and swear an oath to attest to their innocence.
Similar systems exist in Kuwait for Christian or Jewish residents. Judges preside over hearings, but there are no juries or lawyers used to present cases.
One of the most drastic contrasts is that Sharia law forbids fornication, homosexuality and adultery. These crimes carry defined penalties. Families of crime victims can also demand a blood money payment if a person has been found guilty of causing an injury or death.
Penalties for breaking the law in Kuwait can be severe and should never be taken lightly. Ignorance is not a defence, so even if you have inadvertently broken the law, it is likely this will not be considered when passing a sentence.
There are many places in Kuwait, ranging from quiet residential neighbourhoods to elite city centre apartments and modern developments.
Mubarak Al-Kabeer is often considered the most prestigious place to live and is home to primarily Kuwaiti nationals. Properties in this area are large and luxurious, offering a sophisticated lifestyle.
Prices in this district are expensive, but many homes offer private beaches and other amenities you’d not find in more densely populated areas.
Al Asimah Governorate is the prime place for businesses and often the top choice for professional expats moving to Kuwait for work. The district is best known as a good base for companies and The Avenues shopping mall.
Middle East Guides
Make sure you read the guide on moving abroad before you decide on a move to Kuwait. In addition, you can find other middle east related guides following the links below.
Related Articles and Insights
Below is a list of some related articles and insights that you may find of interest.
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