After Myanmar has opened its doors to the world, investors around the world are rushing into the country to examine the business opportunities. As the country is trying to speed up the economic growth but lacks a skilled workforce, many businesses in Myanmar—both local and foreign—are trying to bring in experts from outside of the country. In this article, we will explain about the procedures and requirements for foreigners to work in Myanmar.
In the initial stage of economic development, Myanmar will need help from foreign experts due to inadequate number of skillful workers in the country. The Myanmar government, realizing the values of expertise and experience that foreign experts will bring to the country, allows foreign companies a six-year transitional period in fulfilling the government’s mandate to employ local workforce. According to the Foreign Investment Law, Myanmar citizens must occupy at least 25 percent of the total employees within the first two-year period, at least 50 percent within the second period, and at least 75 percent within the third period from the commencement of the business. The Myanmar Citizens Investment Law also allows local businesses to employ foreign experts. An official from the Ministry of Immigration and Population, as quoted in The Irrawaddy, estimated that about 8,000 foreigners are currently in the country on long-term visas.
Every foreigner needs a visa to enter Myanmar—except citizens of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, and Vietnam, who can visit for up to 14 days without a visa. Although the Myanmar government has made visa-on-arrival available to citizens of 51 countries beginning on June 1st 2013, obtaining a visa prior to arrival is strongly recommended. When foreign investors and employees come to Myanmar, they can apply for tourist and business visas. Tourist visas allow holders to stay in the country for 28 days and can be extended for additional 14 days. Technically, the holders cannot engage in any commercial activity inside the country and must stay in government-approved hotels only. Therefore, those who are looking forward to staying and working in the country for long term should apply for business visas instead.
Two types of business visas exist: single entry and multiple-journey entry. A single-entry business visa is valid up to 70 days (10 weeks) from the date of arrival and is extendable. Foreigners who have already visited Myanmar for three times can apply for multiple-journey entry business visa. It is valid from 6 months to 1 year after its issued date and is extendable as well. Nonetheless, the longest duration a foreigner can continuously stay in the country is limited to 70 days, so even those on multiple-journey visas will have to leave the country and enter again.
While the process to enter the country can seem simple, the procedures to stay in the country can be complex and grueling. Those who want to stay in the country continuously for more than 70 days will need a stay permit, which can be obtained with endorsement from respective ministries. A US$ 36 stay permit will allow foreigners to stay up to three months in addition to the permitted 70 days, and a US$ 90 stay permit will allow three to twelve months of extended stay. In addition, those who are planning to stay in the country for more than 90 days continuously must obtain a Foreigner’s Registration Certificate (FRC) within 90 days after their arrival for US$ 9. The FRC is valid till November 30th of every year and thus must be renewed in December for US$ 9. The holders must return their FRC to the immigration officers at the airport when they leave the country. When they re-enter, they must revalidate their FRC within 30 days for a fee of US$ 6.
Also, with the recommendation from respective ministries, if foreigners with single-entry visas have to leave and re-enter, they will need to apply for special re-entry visas before their departure. Single-journey special re-entry visa costs US$ 54, and multiple-journey special re-entry visa costs US$ 180. Those who want multiple-journey special re-entry visas must have a stay permit as well. If their original visas have expired when they re-enter, they must apply for new entry visas.
Fortunately for foreigners who have already obtained multiple-journey entry business visas, they can bypass all of
the above complicated procedures by leaving the country before their 70-day deadline is due and then re-enter the country, thus automatically renewing their duration of stay. This way, they can stay in the country—intermittently—without additional paperwork till their multiple-journey entry visas are expired.
While the Myanmar government is working to keep up with the pace of foreigners arriving for employment purposes, many initiatives are still in the working process. For example, Article 25 of the Foreign Investment Law states that “foreigners who work at the investment business under the [Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC)] permit shall submit and apply for the work permit and the local residence permit issued by the Union.”As of now, work permit still remains in the developmental stage, and only foreign employees who are in the managerial or supervisory positions or with special skills and expertise can be recruited.
In order to assist companies that have received MIC permits with the visa and immigration process for their foreign employees, MIC has set up a one-stop-service center in its Yangon office. According to Directorate of Investment and
Company Administration (DICA), the procedures for a company to obtain work permits for foreign employees are as follows:
- Mention the number of foreign experts/technicians to be employed in the investment application form submitted to the MIC.
- After obtaining a permit from MIC, apply for appointment and stay permits.
- With the endorsement from MIC, apply for work permits from the Directorate of Labor under the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security.
- Apply for stay permit and visas from the National Registration Department under the Ministry of Immigration and Population.
Also, the permanent residency (PR) system for foreigners is being processed in the government. The PR system will allow foreigners a five-year stay in the country and is renewable at the end of the term for additional five years. Through the PR system, the government aims to attract skilled experts, investors, former Myanmar citizens, and their extended family abroad. The PR initiative was led by Vice-President U Nyan Tun together with Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Immigration and Population, and Union Attorney General’s Office. The Draft Law was submitted to the Pyithu Hluttaw in September 2013 and has received approval this year. Union Minister for Immigration and Population Khin Yi stated that the PR system for foreign citizens will kick off by the last week of October 2014.
As foreign investments roll in to Myanmar, foreign workers will feature an important role in the country’s development. Not only will they bring and transfer essential skills and expertise to Myanmar’s fledgling workforce, they will also boost the country’s economy by means of consumption, production, and tax payments. By making the immigration procedures more transparent and convenient for applicants, the government can help bring foreign investors and workers into the sectors of economy in need.