2008 Narrative - Getting Terminated, Visa Woes in Kuwait and the Kick Ass Jobs That Came With It

4:20 PM

Its funny how I get messages and emails with questions about visa processes, job compensations, benefits, living situations and salary ranges here in Kuwait.

I find it funny because, honestly, no one is the wiser about the visa processes, about anything here for that matter. The Ministry changes the rulings and clauses, as they say – almost every week, that one can’t be sure about the validity of the information.

Case in point, me. I’ve been living here in Kuwait for almost 5 years, worked for government contracts and private institutions, got aunts and uncles who works in different sectors, cousins who goes to PIES(?) and a sister who’s training to be a flight stewardess someday.

So I should know all about, Working Visa (Article 18), Family Visa (Article 22), Kadama Visa (Article 20) right?

Partly right but half of the knowledge wouldn’t cut it when you’re actually processing the visa. In come the Mandoobs and the wasta’s.

When I got laid off during the onset of the recession due to government projects being over, I found myself not worrying much about a new job but much more about transferring my visa from the old company. My residency visa here in Kuwait is only as good as my work retention. No work means no visa which means go home to your country of birth.

I got laid off on January 2008, applied to a dozen of job; got 3 temporary stints until I found this one that offered me a little cubicle to call my office spot, a year later.

Being out of work in Kuwait, no matter how big your support system is like bungee jumping and free falling is just not my thing.

All companies gives their ex employees a chance to transfer their visa to a new sponsor although the number of days given varies on the company. Normally, they would only give a maximum of 2 months but I was lucky to be given extensions until 9 months! Even after my visa expires they extended the validity for 1 more month just so my new company will have time to transfer my residency. How cool is that.

Since applying for work here in Kuwait through the classified ads isn’t really much, we had to resort to wasta. Now, wasta isn’t such a bad thing if it doesn’t hurt other people and it’s not only confined to this country as it happens around the world.

My different wasta’s gave me 3 jobs, one of which I never imagined I will ever do.

I climbed, rappelled, bouldered and made friends.

Knowing my disdain of heights and everything not in my control, I only lasted for a month before I looked for the comfort and solidity of the office chair. I had to quit as my mother feared for my life and the visa status does not look promising. This is, by the way, my first resignation.

I became an assistant to the assistant.

This also lasted only for a month as the company that provides provisions to Iraq is experiencing internal power war. The office feels like you're working at home complete with maids and a huge kitchen where by the way the morning meeting is held. Since it provides food and other materials to different bases in Iraq, we are always eating the samples.

I sat in the middle of the desert and counted trucks.

My very first 2 story high trailer office. My skin did not appreciate the harsh winds and sand storms that much but being the only female in the whole camp I was pretty much left alone to do my work. How long did this last? Well you guessed it! A month! Mainly because when the HR Controller interviewed me, he specifically requested to have me transferred in the head office.

Sadly though, being in a government project did not give me much of a leeway when it was time to transfer my visa. Government project visa is only transferable after 5 years and I’ve only worked with them for 3. There was nothing I could do but go back to the Philippines and go through the whole ordeal of Manpower Agencies, POEA and medical.

Before I can fly out of the country though I had to do appear at the Ministry official where he asks me if I have any problems with my ex-company which I have to say the standard reply is no if you want your visa to be cancelled fast. I was issued a government letter together with a ticket for Kuwait Airways, the official airline for repatriated government project employees.

Armed with a promise that I will have a new visa within a month, I flew to home sweet home.

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