Outbound workers to get free visa, ticket from today

KATHMANDU: The government is implementing the ‘free ticket and visa’ provision from Sunday to send workers to seven major labour destinations, despite objections from foreign employment agencies. The new provision makes it mandatory for agencies to send workers at free of cost or by charging a maximum of Rs 10,000 service fee for special cases.

From now onward, manpower agencies will have to bring demands for workers from seven countries — Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — that ensure that the cost related to visa and air ticket is paid for by the employers. These destinations absorb more than 95 per cent of workers being supplied from Nepal each year.

Budhi Bahadur Khadka, spokesperson of the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) said that the provision would come into effect as planned from Monday. Citing the negative impact that the decision could have, the International Relations and Labour Committee of the Legislature-Parliament had recently instructed MoLE to implement the free visa and ticket provision only for countries with whom the government had reached bilateral labour agreements.

Nepal is yet to sign labour agreements with major countries like Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. “Free ticket and visa will be implemented in all seven countries,” said Khadka, adding that the committee’s instruction does not restrict sending workers to Malaysia and Saudi Arabia where the process to sign the labour agreements have already started. The government is also working on a plan to send workers as domestic helps at zero cost.

The provision of low cost or zero expense has both pros and cons. It, in a way, enables aspirants who are financially weak to pursue foreign employment and become economically sound. On the other hand, there is a risk of the nation itself facing a shortage of workers as a huge number of workers might migrate for employment abroad in the coming days if manpower agencies are able to bring good demands.

Foreign employment agencies are up in arms mainly because the new provision is likely to hurt their income. MoLE officials said that many agencies had been charging arbitrarily from aspirants to send them for employment abroad. With the new provision being implemented, the existing charge of a maximum of Rs 80,000 service fee for employment in Malaysia and Rs 70,000 for Gulf countries implemented 12 years ago has effectively been scrapped by MoLE.

Meanwhile, amid criticism over the new provision from manpower agencies, the newly elected executive committee members of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA), on Sunday, held an introductory meeting and also discussed about the burning issues including free visa and ticket with Labour Minister Tek Bahadur Gurung. “We discussed the issue with the labour minister today and asked him not to impose the provision without proper preparations,” said Kumud Khanal, newly elected first vice president of NAFEA.

As per Khanal, as a part of their protest, foreign employment agencies have decided not to submit any new application for pre-approval of workers’ demand at Department of Foreign Employment on Monday. Pre-approval of demands is must to get final approval to send workers. He added that the next meeting with the labour minister has been fixed for Monday and if there is no positive response to their demand, they will continue with their protest for an indefinite period.