Kuwait has suspended residency permits for around 40,000 expats as they failed to renew them for being stuck abroad due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
"They will be unable to return to the country unless they have new visas," added Brig Hamad Rashid Al Tawala, the head of Kuwait's General Administration of Residency Affairs, reports Gulf News.
He cited orders from Interior Minister Anis Al Saleh to facilitate measures for renewing residency permits and expired passports of around 68,000 expatriates, mostly Egyptians and Indians.
"This crisis has been addressed by allowing renewal of residency permits and transfer on condition that the embassy of the respective country stamps in approval renewal and the expat gets an official written approval from the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry," he told Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai.
"This approach reflects sympathy with these expats who have made no mistake. Their problem was the result of the coronavirus pandemic," he added, disclosing that about 7,000 migrant workers, mostly from the Egyptian and Indian community, scrapped their residency permits in Kuwait and left.
Foreigners account for nearly 3.4 million of Kuwait's 4.8 million population.
Around 135,000 illegal expatriates are still in Kuwait after an amnesty, provided by authorities there for illegals, has expired, according to Brig. Al Tawala.
He added that over 26,000 illegals took advantage of the pardon plan and left Kuwait.
In April, the Kuwaiti government announced the plan for illegal migrants to encourage them to depart. The pardon offered the illegals exemption from punishment and free home return flights.
There have been increasing calls in Kuwait to redress the demographic imbalance, prompting several government bodies to disclose plans to minimise numbers of their expatriate employees.
Brig Al Tawala said that the government has approved a plan to increase fees on expatriates' residency permits and visas for business, tourism and family visits.
"The draft law will be urgently referred to the National Assembly [parliament] as part of efforts to handle the demographic imbalance," he said. "Kuwaiti is considered among the cheapest copuntries in the world. The new residency fees will be approximate to those in the other Gulf Cooperation Council countries," he added without giving specific figures.
The new fees will come into effect before the end of this year, according to the official.