Working visa to foreign interns or individual volunteers will not be issued unless they are from institutionalized agencies

Labour: Foreigners willing to work in the capacity of any professional category in the country will henceforth require a minimum qualification of a bachelor’s degree with at least three years experience.

This is one of the 75 new components in the revised Immigration Rules and Regulations, 2015 that was launched yesterday, and comes into effect immediately.

According to the revised rules, work permit application for employment in professional category should be supported by relevant notarized qualification certificate and a minimum of bachelor’s degree with at least three years experience in the relevant field.

Department of Immigration’s director general, Thinlay Wangchuk, said the minimum qualification criteria was set because currently, foreign individuals with low level of qualification were seen holding higher positions in the country. “We need experts with experience to come and impart their knowledge to the Bhutanese,” he said. “This rule will also have a positive contribution to the current unemployment scenario in the country.”

As of yesterday, there are 48,299 foreign workers in the country of which 1,781 individuals are under professional category in the field of managers, engineers, doctors and different technical specialists.

Of the total expatriate workers, 37,653 are plumbers, electricians, painters, drivers and masons among others. The remaining 8,865 expatriate workers include hospital staff, cooks, accountants and other assistant labourers.

The repelled rules do not specify the minimum qualification requirement and states only the need for a certificate.

Thinlay Wangchuk said the new rules were used as guidelines by the department for more than a year and half and saw it practical for further implementation. “With several new issues arising for the department, we felt the need to cover all those issues and hence the new regulations,” he said.

The 2012 rules covered only about 60-70 percent of the issues, he said.

According to the new rules, apart from volunteers coming from an institutionalized agency, foreign interns or individual volunteers will not be issued working visa henceforth.

Visa shall not be issued for volunteers, interns and tailor made or ad-hoc courses unless the tailor made course is organized by a government approved institute for a minimum of 10-15 foreign students under regular class program for at least three months, the revised rules states.

The new rules also mandates any foreign student studying in an academic institution, colleges, sherdras or drupdeys, to submit evidence of bank statement to meet the course fees, accommodation and maintenance of himself or herself without taking employment or engaging in business or having resource to public funds.

To reduce cases of fronting, the revised rules states that foreign individuals on immigration permit either on short-term visit or long term work or studies shall not be eligible for an immigration card. “He or she shall exit the country for six months and re-enter to apply for immigration card.”

According to the rules, unless otherwise specified under the relevant sections of this rules, all foreign workers shall remain outside the country for at least six months after completion of three years stay in the country without taking into consideration the 15 days period and change of employer.

Thinlay Wangchuk said the new regulations were framed considering the need of the individuals and also the proper functioning of the department. “Rules need to be transparent and it should cater to the mass,” he said.

The department will be issuing the revised rules and regulations to all agencies.

Younten Tshedup