KP Sharma

The mandatory six-month exit requirement for foreign workers following three years of stay in the country will be relaxed from November 11, 2023 until December 31, 2034.

This relaxation, as per a notification from the Department of Immigration on November 6, is aimed at achieving Bhutan’s goal of becoming a developed country by 2034.

According to the immigration rules and regulations of 2015, foreign workers were mandated to leave the country for a period of six months after completing three years of service in the country.

It has drawn criticism from the private sector and the business community for being unfriendly and creating challenges in hiring foreign workers.

However, the new immigration rules have categorised foreign workers into two categories.

Professionals are now exempted from the exit requirement while for those in non-professional category, the exit duration has been reduced from six months to just one month.

Despite the government’s attempts to reduce the duration of the cooling period previously, the immigration department did not cooperate in revising the rules.

The immigration department cited national security concerns as the key justification for not shortening the duration.

The previous regulations had affected the Foreign Direct Investment Companies (FDI) and other private enterprises that depended on foreign professionals for their business operations.

FDI owners had previously raised concerns about the requirement for foreign workers to leave for six months, stating that it places an additional financial burden on companies.

They have to continue making payments to retain their workers and their expertise, even when they do not provide active service to the company.

Such interruption in projects was reported to directly hamper the company’s productivity, according to those in FDI businesses.

The regulations were seen as unfriendly and detrimental to attracting foreign investors, leading the investors to reconsider their investments in the country when faced with these constraints.

The easing of the immigration rules is expected to contribute to Bhutan’s goal of achieving developed country status by 2034, while also fostering increased foreign investment from foreign companies.

This change will allow companies to hire skilled professionals whose contributions are vital for maintaining their standards, efficiency and overall development and growth.

The department stated that both employers and foreign workers are required to strictly follow the existing immigration laws, rules and regulations.

In addition, it stated that a failure by relevant stakeholders to adhere to the revised rules may result in the department taking stringent measures, including legal action.