The Regulation on Employment of Expatriate Workers1 (the “Regulation”) gazetted on 24 May 2023, introduced some major changes to the work permit application process in the Maldives and repealed the old Regulation on Employment of Expatriate Workers2 (the “Old Regulation”).
A common feature in both the current Regulation and the Old Regulation is that foreign employment is conditional on:
- a work permit being obtained from the Ministry of Economic Development (the “Ministry”); and
- a work visa being obtained from the Maldives Immigration.
The Xpat System
Under the Regulation, employers or their appointed representatives are required to handle the work permit and work visa applications in connection with the employment of foreign employees.
Accordingly, under the Regulation, work permit applications and requests are required to be submitted by employers to the Ministry via the Ministry’s online portal – Xpat System3. Employers can appoint their representatives to the Xpat System, who can submit the applications on behalf of the employer.
Who can represent the employer on the Xpat System?
Under the Regulation, employers will now be able to appoint the following as their representatives on the Xpat System.
- A Maldivian Employee of the employer
- A licensed employment agency (with a valid Category A or Category B Licence)
- An individual representative appointed by an individual employer
The Regulation also introduced the following new features to the Xpat System regarding the access levels for entities and their representatives.
- View User (with the ability to monitor the work permit applications submitted via the Xpat System)
- Active User (with the ability to submit work permit applications)
Individuals who wish to register as active users on the Xpat System must be licensed by the Ministry following the completion of a Certificate of Employment Intermediary Course. It is currently unclear when this course will be rolled out by the Ministry.
Work permit & work visa process
Under the Regulation, obtaining a work permit and a work visa is generally a 6-step process, as summarised below.
- Step 1 – Registration: The employer will need to register itself on the Xpat System and the National Job Center Portal of the Ministry.
- Step 2 – Worksite Registration: The employer will need to register its worksite (i.e. location of its business activity).
- Step 3 – Quota Application: The employer will need to obtain a foreign employment quota from the Ministry in connection with the business activity undertaken at the worksite.
- Step 4 – Work Permit Entry Pass: Once the quota is approved, the employer can proceed with the work permit applications, which entail obtaining a Work Permit Entry Pass (the “WPEP”) for foreign employees coming from abroad. The WPEP will be required to be presented by the employee at the point of entry into Maldives.
- Step 5 – Work Permit: After the foreign employee arrives in the Maldives under the WPEP, the work permit application must be completed by the employer by submitting the information and documents required under the Regulation following which the work permit will be issued.
- Step 6 – Work Visa: Once the work permit is issued, an appointment will need to be made with Maldives Immigration to obtain the work visa for the employee. The work visa must be obtained within 30 days of the work permit being issued.
Although the general process outlined above must be followed, the Regulation has introduced a provision which provides that employers must post a job offering on the Ministry’s Job Center Portal seeking employees from the local market before bringing foreign employees into the Maldives.
Under the Regulation, the work permit will be valid for the period the Work Permit Fee is paid. However, the Regulation also stipulates that where a condition of the work permit is incomplete or any document required in connection with the work permit is expired, the work permit will be deemed as expired under the Regulation.
Applicable fees and payments
The fees applicable in connection with the work permit/work visa process are summarised below. Note that there have not been any changes to the fees from the Old Regulation.
|MVR 2,000 (circa USD 130) per quota slot (i.e. each slot in the respective quota pool) payable for a period of 12 months. (Note: The annual quota fee can be paid in scheduled instalments).
|Work Permit Deposit
|Deposits are paid at the prevailing rates published by the Ministry and differ depending on the nationality of the employee. (Note: This is a security deposit to be utilised by the Ministry in the event that the employee is to be deported by the Government and/or to cover expenses incurred by the Government where an employer does not fulfil the requirements stipulated in the Regulation).
|Work Permit Fee
|MVR 350 (circa USD 22.7) per month for each respective employee on a work permit.
In addition to the above fees, employers will be required to obtain (a) expatriate health insurance and; (b) carry out the required medical health check-ups from registered third parties at the prevailing rates of the third parties.
Conditional work permit
Under the Regulation, undocumented foreigners who wish to regularise and obtain a work permit and foreigners who wish to change their employer will be issued with a conditional work permit. The conditional work permit will have 30 days validity from the date the Work Permit Deposit is paid.
The conditional work permit will be utilised by the individual during the regularisation process and/or to change the employer.
The Regulation provides that certain documents required to be submitted in connection with the work permit application process must be notarised. In this regard, the Regulation has introduced a provision stipulating that such documents must be notarised by public notaries who are registered at the Ministry in connection with the work permit process.
Accordingly, under the Regulation, a list of notaries registered at the Ministry must be made available via the Xpat System. However, the Regulation stipulates that this provision will become effective only when the Ministry publishes its rules on notarising documents required to be submitted to the MInistry.