Travel Bans

Travel Bans are legal prohibitions the Kuwaiti government imposes to prevent persons involved in disputes from departing the country.  They can be the result of any sort of civil or criminal dispute or immigration violation.  They are not normally lifted until the matter at issue, i.e., the civil suit, criminal case, or immigration violation is settled.  Travel bans do not exist in the United States, and most Americans are not familiar with them.

A travel ban can result from any number of causes.  For example, civil courts in Kuwait can (and do) impose travel bans over financial disputes.  Such disputes might include disputes between business partners, between borrowers and lenders, landlords and tenants, or lessors and lessees.  If a financial dispute is the basis of the travel ban, it may be possible to get the ban lifted by depositing a sum of money equal to the amount in dispute with the court.

The Kuwait Prosecutors office may also impose travel bans on individuals while it is conducting criminal investigations in order to prevent them from leaving the country.  The Ministry of the Interior will also impose travel bans on those who violate their visa status by overstaying, or work without authorization.  These bans will not usually be lifted until the case at issue is concluded.  People who have travel bans for immigration violations will sometimes also find themselves in deportation proceedings.

U.S. Citizens resident in Kuwait who are involved in disputes or investigations can check whether they have a travel ban by entering their civil ID number on the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior website, found here.  Free apps are also available for download on the Apple and Android operating systems. Since multiple Kuwaiti government agencies can impose travel bans, this database is not exhaustive.  Often, travelers do not learn that they have a travel ban until they attempt to depart Kuwait.

The Kuwaiti government will usually not lift a travel ban until the matter under dispute is resolved.  If the resolution involves a financial penalty such as a fine, the process of getting the travel ban formally lifted can involve shuttling between various Kuwait government offices and courts to pay the fine and obtain necessary approvals.  Once the ban is lifted, the traveler is free to depart Kuwait.

Travelers can also be banned from entering Kuwait.  This can happen for many of the same reasons as exit bans.  They are a particular problem for those who have been in Kuwait previously and have not passed through Kuwaiti exit control upon their last departure from Kuwait (for example, in the cases of persons who entered via commercial air but departed via military air).  Such persons will show on immigration records as never having departed Kuwait and may appear they have overstayed their visa.  When they attempt to enter the country again, they are frequently detained.

The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait strongly advises active members of the U.S. military and military contractors arriving or departing on military air to contact the Theater Gateway office at 2221-6340 to ensure they go through the proper entrance or exit procedures in Kuwait.