COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Kuwait is a small, oil-rich constitutional emirate. Foreign workers constitute approximately 75 percent of the labor force. Kuwaiti citizens number 1.1 million of the country's population of 3.4 million, and enjoy the benefits of a generous social welfare system that guarantees employment, housing, education, and medical care. Facilities for travelers are widely available. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Kuwait for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Kuwait, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the Embassy.
U.S. Embassy Kuwait
Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Block 6, Plot 14,
Telephone:  2259-1001 or 2259-1002
Emergency after-hours telephone:  2259-1001
Facsimile:  2259-1438
The U.S. Embassy is open Sunday through Thursday, except on U.S. or local holidays.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. U.S. citizens can obtain visitor visas at the port of entry in Kuwait, and at this time, U.S. citizens are not charged a fee. Travelers who overstay their visas may be required to pay large fines and/or may be subject to imprisonment before being permitted to depart Kuwait. Travelers who leave Kuwait without completing Kuwaiti exit procedures may also be required to pay large fines and/or be imprisoned upon their return. This includes official travelers and contractors supporting regional U.S. military operations proceeding via Kuwait to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. Please note that employment in Kuwait requires the issuance of a work visa prior to arriving in country. Working without the proper authorization may result in immigration penalties, including deportation or denial of admission to Kuwait. For further information on entry and exit requirements, travelers should contact the Embassy of the State of Kuwait at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 966-0702, or the Kuwaiti Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 973-4318. U.S. citizens are urged to remain aware of their visa status while in Kuwait and to strictly follow Kuwaiti immigration laws and regulations.
Kuwaiti officials are extremely sensitive about travel to Iraq. There have been instances in which U.S. citizens, especially dual nationals, have been detained for questioning at ports of entry/exit. U.S. citizens seeking to travel to Iraq through Kuwait have also on occasion been turned around and/or detained.
Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, including U.S. citizens, who have been charged with criminal offenses, placed under investigation, involved in unresolved financial disputes, or have unpaid debts, are subject to Kuwaiti government travel bans. The U.S. Embassy can provide U.S. citizens with a list of attorneys. However, only Kuwaiti authorities can remove travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. Travel bans can also be initiated by private citizens for almost any reason and may remain in place for a substantial period of time while the case is being investigated.
U.S. citizens seeking residency in Kuwait should obtain the necessary documents prior to arriving in Kuwait and follow the proper procedures to have the documents authenticated by the Department of State and attested by the Embassy of the State of Kuwait or Kuwait Consulates. This includes U.S.-issued vital records and police clearances. Government of Kuwait regulations require the verification of the informational content of such documents; the U.S. Embassy cannot provide this service.
The Government of Kuwait has strict regulations regarding certain diseases, including HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis. Medical examinations are required for all individuals seeking residency in Kuwait; any applicants who test positive for these diseases will be asked to leave the country immediately and will be permanently barred from re-entry. Please inquire directly with the Embassy of Kuwait before traveling.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: U.S. citizens in Kuwait should exercise a high level of security awareness and are advised to monitor local news broadcasts and consular messages. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, specifically in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. U.S. citizens considering travel to Kuwait should review the Worldwide Caution.
The threat of terrorism remains high in Kuwait. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage taking, kidnappings, and assassinations. Increased security at official U.S. facilities may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas and apartment complexes, schools and places of worship, oil-related facilities and personnel, and public areas where people congregate including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas. U.S. citizens are advised to immediately report any unusual or suspicious activity in Kuwait to the Kuwaiti police or to the U.S. Embassy.
Kuwaiti law permits freedom of assembly, although groups larger than 20 individuals must obtain prior approval from the Ministry of the Interior. Still, spontaneous demonstrations take place in Kuwait in response to world events or local developments. At times, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. The Embassy advises U.S. citizens to avoid areas of large gatherings and demonstrations. Exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large gatherings and demonstrations and monitor media coverage of local and regional events. It is illegal for non-Kuwaiti citizens to participate in any demonstration, even if the demonstration is licensed.
U.S. citizens in Kuwait should also maintain a low profile, practice personal security measures, and avoid areas where Westerners are known to congregate. As in many other countries, soft targets such as shopping malls, hotels, and restaurants can be considered vulnerable to terrorist attack. Heightened security awareness should be exercised at areas perceived as Western or residential complexes where Westerners largely reside. U.S. military personnel, as well as civilians and contractors related to military interests, are also potential targets.
U.S. citizens are also reminded that desert areas and certain beaches contain unexploded ordnance and war materials left over from the 1990-1991 war. Unexploded ordnance results in deaths each year throughout the country.
The following areas are considered off-limits for U.S. diplomats and require U.S. diplomats to seek special permission to travel in these areas in order to conduct official duties: Kuwait/Iraq border – north of Mutla’a Ridge, the tank graveyard (near Ali Al Salem base), and the city of Jahra. U.S. diplomats are also recommended to avoid the following areas, especially during nighttime hours, as they have been identified as high-crime areas: Jleeb Ash Shuyoukh, Hasawi, and Abbasiya, located on the outskirts of Kuwait City International Airport.
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CRIME: The crime threat in Kuwait is assessed as low; however, Kuwait is not crime-free. Although there has not been a rise in crime incidents targeting U.S. citizens, crime overall in Kuwait is steadily increasing according to local media reports. Reports from Westerners of petty theft and vehicle break-ins are crimes of opportunity and usually a result of practicing poor personal security,e.g., not locking vehicle or hotel room doors, exposing money and jewelry, or leaving valuables in plain sight and unattended. However, there have also been reports of harassment and sexual assault, especially of women when traveling out alone. Incidents have occurred in various areas and times to include the Gulf Road, shopping malls, hotels, and in residential neighborhoods.
U.S. citizens should be mindful of cultural and social norms when traveling in Kuwait. To reduce your chances of becoming a victim, practice personal security measures, and share guidance with your family and household members. Female travelers should keep in mind the cultural differences in Kuwait and should be aware that some actions may invite unwanted attention. Modest dress, not engaging in small talk, not making constant eye contact, and maintaining a low profile may deter harassment. As always, call 112 for emergency assistance.
For more information, please read the 2013 Overseas Security Advisory Council’s Crime and Safety Report for Kuwait.
Laws in Kuwait regarding domestic violence are distinctly different than the laws and protections afforded to victims in the United States. Assaults with minor injuries may not be considered criminal acts. Victims of domestic violence often report that they encountered difficulty with making the reports to the police. It is recommended to obtain the services of a private attorney. The Embassy’s List of Attorneys is available on the Embassy website. Social service agencies are few, if any; when they exist it is often only for the benefit of Kuwait citizens.
Travelers should exercise caution with public transportation and check points as police impersonators have been known to use that ruse to lure their victims. Police stations generally do not have female officers or investigators to assist with these cases. While most hospitals will contact a criminal investigator to assist a victim of crime, victims with minor injuries may need to make the initial police report and obtain the required documents for the collection of evidence prior to receiving treatment. The Government of Kuwait does not provide victim’s assistance and there is no rape crisis center or similar service in-country.
The Kuwaiti police accept crime reports at the police station with jurisdiction over the area where the crime occurred. If filing a crime report, it is advisable that the U.S. citizen be accompanied by a person who speaks Arabic or by a local attorney. The Embassy’s List of Attorneys is available on the Embassy website. Filing a crime report can take several hours as a police investigator will take the victim’s statement orally while composing his investigative report. In all cases of abuse, the victim must obtain a medical report from a Kuwaiti hospital.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent of the “911” emergency line in Kuwait is “112” and can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The quality and range of services provided by the emergency line are not equivalent to those provided in the United States. U.S. citizens are advised to carry a mobile phone at all times in Kuwait.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Kuwait, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. Persons violating Kuwaiti laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Alcohol is illegal; possession of it or driving under the influence will result in your immediate imprisonment. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kuwait are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Kuwait, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going. If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process for being charged or indicted, prosecuted, possibly convicted and sentenced, and for any appeals process.
Within this framework, U.S. consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families. To learn what the Embassy can and cannot do if you are arrested overseas, please see our information on arrests overseas.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Individuals arrested for criminal violations in Kuwait are generally taken to the public prosecutor within two business days to determine if there is sufficient evidence for an investigation and may be detained for up to thirty days without a formal filing of charges. Juvenile proceedings are closed to all but court officers.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The workweek in Kuwait is Sunday through Thursday for most businesses, government offices, and commercial banks.
The Government of Kuwait does not recognize dual nationality. Kuwaiti authorities have confiscated the U.S. passports of U.S. citizens and U.S.-Kuwaiti dual nationals when they have applied for Kuwaiti citizenship documents such as passports. This does not constitute loss of U.S. citizenship but should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. For additional information, please refer to the Bureau of Consular Affairs dual nationality flyer.
Kuwaiti customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Kuwait of such items as firearms, religious materials, pornography, and alcohol. Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are illegal in Kuwait. Travelers with prescription medications should carry them in their original packaging or bottle, as dispensed, and carry a copy of their prescription in case customs authorities question their importation into Kuwait. Kuwaiti customs authorities screen the baggage of all travelers entering Kuwait. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington, D.C. or Kuwait's Consulates in Los Angeles or New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Photographing government and public buildings, military installations, and economic infrastructure, particularly that related to the oil industry, is against the law and can result in arrest, investigation, and prosecution. Also, some traditionally dressed women find being photographed to be offensive and may complain to the local police. If photographing public scenes or persons, visitors should take care to ask permission beforehand so as to not cause offense that could lead to an official complaint to the authorities.
Humiliating or insulting a person, including a police officer or a public official, is a crime in Kuwait similar to disorderly conduct or harassment in the United States. A person charged with humiliating or insulting another is subject to police investigation and possible prosecution and imprisonment. Persons under investigation can be prevented from departing Kuwait.
Consensual same-sex sexual conduct between males and cross-dressing are illegal in Kuwait. The law punishes consensual same-sex sexual activity between men with up to 10 years in prison and a fine and imprisonment of up to three years for imitating the appearance of the opposite sex in public. LGBT travelers should review the LGBT Travel Information page.
Proselytizing is prohibited for all religions except Islam.
Accessibility: While in Kuwait, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Kuwaiti law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities. The government generally enforces these provisions. The Kuwaiti government also supervises and contributes to schools and job and training programs that cater to persons with special needs.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: The health care system continues to develop, with many government and private medical facilities available in Kuwait. Medical care at government-run clinics and hospitals is provided at low cost to legal residents of Kuwait. Private physicians and hospitals charge fees for services, and some do not accept local health insurance. Many hospital and clinic services do not compare to U.S. standards.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Kuwait, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kuwait is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Kuwait is extremely hazardous. Although Kuwait has an extensive and modern system of well-lit roads, excessive speed on both primary and secondary roads, coupled with lax enforcement of traffic regulations and a high density of vehicles (one vehicle for every 25 residents), leads to frequent and often fatal accidents. Incidents of road rage, distraction on the part of drivers, poor driving skills, and highway brinksmanship are common in Kuwait, and can be unsettling to Western drivers in Kuwait who are accustomed to more rigid adherence to traffic laws.
The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company and the City Bus Company operate bus services throughout the Kuwait City metropolitan area, on 50 different routes, which are widely used by the low-income expatriate labor force. Taxis are available at major hotels and may be telephoned to pick up passengers at other locations. It is sometimes possible to hail taxis on streets; taxis have meters, but fares are more commonly negotiated. U.S. citizens are advised to use only marked taxis with meters. U.S. citizens, especially those traveling alone and/or in darkness hours, should avoid sitting in the front seat of a taxi, do not travel to unfamiliar areas, do not enter taxis with unknown passengers, and not engage in “small talk” that can be misinterpreted as interest in the taxi driver. Visitors can use international driving permits issued by their respective countries within the time limit of their visas; however, the visitor must also have liability insurance. It is illegal to drive in Kuwait without a license and car registration documents. If an individual is stopped and cannot produce these documents, the individual may be taken to a police station and held until the documents are presented on his/her behalf.
The Government of Kuwait may provide U.S. citizens with a Kuwaiti driver’s license. Visitors and residents should consult the Ministry of Interior website for the most up-to-date information on obtaining a driver’s license.
If an individual is involved in an accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that he/she must immediately notify the police and remain at the scene until the police arrive. Involvement in an accident, even if not at fault, can lead to arrest and temporary incarceration. At-fault accidents can result in arrests, demands for financial restitution, and/or travel bans preventing individuals from departing Kuwait.
The use of front seat belts is mandatory in Kuwait. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. When a driver flashes his/her high beams in Kuwait, it is meant as a request to move the car into a slower lane to allow the driver with the flashing beams to proceed ahead. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are in use on Kuwaiti roads. Non-payment of traffic and parking fines may result in travel bans which remain in place until the fines are paid, often with penalties.
Possession or consumption of alcohol is illegal in Kuwait. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense, which may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Repeat traffic violations or violations of a serious nature may also result in the deportation of an expatriate offender.
Kuwait has one of the highest per capita rates of cellular telephone ownership in the world; using a cellular telephone for phone calls or text messaging while driving remains illegal, although it is widely practiced. Local emergency service organizations may be contacted by dialing 112. Ambulance crews do not respond as quickly as in the United States and do not often include trained paramedics. Visit the website of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior for information and statistics in Arabic about traffic safety and road conditions in Kuwait.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Kuwait’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Kuwait’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Kuwait dated May 28, 2013, to update the section on Special Circumstances.