Draft law on work permits for foreigners heads to attorney general

Foreigners working in Myanmar will soon need work permits, the labour ministry has announced, in a move that has been welcomed by businesses. The Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population will submit a draft law to the attorney general later this month, deputy director general U Nyunt Win told The Myanmar Times yesterday.

Though the permits can be renewed annually, all non-Myanmar nationals working here will have to leave the country every four years and reapply from home.

“We will issue work permits to foreigners. In order to qualify, they must be in good health, have a letter of recommendation, and a degree that is recognised regionally or internationally and related to their work. It will be available only to skilled workers and not to manual labourers,” he said.

“The system will allow a transfer of experience and skills from foreign to domestic workers. Our people will be able to learn from foreigners so that eventually they can replace them,” U Nyunt Win said.

The introduction of work permits has been in the pipeline for eight years, while the government has been negotiating with Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) members. “The final step is the submission of the draft law to the attorney general,” the deputy director said.

Adoption of the law would open the way for the government to take action against people working here illegally, said U Nyunt Win. “We can calculate from statistics how many qualified foreign workers are required in each industry, and identify and take action against illegal labour,” he said, adding that the introduction of the permits would not affect local workers.

“There will be no impact on job opportunities for local workers. We will limit the number of permits we issue in light of how many workers there are in each sector,” he said. The ceiling on the permits will be determined sector by sector.

U That Lwin Toh, chair of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, told The Myanmar Times, “We warmly welcome this development, particularly if the new law provides for taxation and penalties for illegal foreign workers. This is long overdue. The Chinese and Vietnamese illegal workers are the worst. International standards should be applied,” he added, calling for rapid implementation of the law.

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