Nepal’s Illegal Workforce: What Can be Done About it?

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The government of Nepal is currently operating in a weakened state of daily operations. Lawlessness, impunity, illegality and corruption have become a part of everyday life and the strength of the state seems paralyzed and offer little help to the public in the ongoing conflict that currently has a grip on the people of Nepal.

The lawless epidemic is not limited to radical Nepalese but also includes disgraceful acts being committed by everyone including foreigners.

There is an estimation that more than 80% of foreigners that live in Nepal have been working without “Work Permits”, beside the fact that it is a mandatory provision to work in Nepal. This includes all types of full-time employment in various capacities. There has been no law until now in Nepal that offers an exemption from a work permit to any foreigners who have been working here as a full-time employee.

The existing Labour Laws in Nepal have very clear provisions when it comes to the recruitment and work permit arrangements for engaging non Nepalese citizens to work in Nepal.

The law is naturally and equally applicable to the all types of institutions including factory, company, organization, association, firm, or group thereof, established under the prevailing laws for the purpose of operating any industry, profession or service, where ten or more workers or employees are engaged. It also includes all types of NGOs and INGOs.

However, majorities of foreigners working in said sectors without having proper work permit, issued by the Department of Labour.

This is not the fault of foreigners living in Nepal. But all concerned authorities who are recommended for a visa including the Department of Immigration, who is the issuer of visas without checking “Work Permit”. Indeed, there is a practice that the document is not a matter but a bribe and the power is a matter that makes all unproductive and falsely produced documents capable to issue a required visa. So, the authorities are mainly responsible agencies who have been practically nullified the labour laws due to atrocious malpractices.

The Immigration Laws of Nepal have not yet made provisions and clearly have a defined category of “Employment Visa” as a result all foreigners need to obtain a Non-Tourist Visa along with a Work Permit issued by the Department of Labour to work as an employee in Nepal. But, in most cases, there is a corrupt analysis and mal-interpretation of Laws especially by visa issuing and recommending authorities who believe that even a Business Visa can be used equally as an “Employment Visa” and it does not require a “Work Permit”.

Additionally, in the case of NGOs and INGOs, visa issuing and recommending authorities believe that an employment visa (Non-Tourist Visa for work purpose) can be issued without obtaining the necessary work permit in Nepal. In both cases, officials said that interpretations work only when foreigners give illegal fees and facilities to issuing and recommending authorities, otherwise they would be asked to obtain work permit.

So, that the interpretations can be different in accordance with the situation of person and the institution. If, this accusation is wrong than, why thousands of foreigners in Nepal have been receiving Non-Tourist/Business Visas for full-time work purposes? How are they getting easily renewed each and every time? What is the logic and explanation behind the case that forces them to issue such recommendations and visas without checking and controlling the work permits by ignoring the mandatory provision of Labour Laws of Nepal?

Recently, the Department of Labour has stated since the beginning that they have learned that the majorities of working foreigners have received visas for full-time work/job in Nepal without a “Work Permit” and even without any consultation. Most of the visa recommending and issuing authority are even intentionally ignore the arrangement of Labour Laws, because Nepalese labour management and administration authorities are not alone and well enough capable to take action against such crimes. Also, it is shameful to mention that our system is so weak and that our state authorities always feel scared to take any kind of action or inquiry against illegal foreigners.

Therefore, it is urgent for the nation that the Government should properly empower and drive the labour management and administration system to control illegality of foreigners’ employees in Nepal. Additionally, along with the Immigration Authority and the Nepali Police, the Department of Labour needs to start a massive operation against illegal foreigners’ working in Nepal without work permits and against the provision of the labour law.

Specially, there is also need to think on developing work visa as a separate category in immigration laws of Nepal defining the process and all details about the terms and condition. The existing labour law is weak, unclear, contradictory and very lenient when it comes to punishing the guilty, so it requires to be improved in respect of contemporary context of Nepali society.

For instance, the Government can issue a public notice giving a 30 days limit and ask all of the foreign workforce to obtain the necessary work permits from the Department of Labour, if required, also immediately process to change visa status if they are otherwise.

Simultaneously, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and National Vigilance Center should become more vigilant when it comes to work and oversight of government employees and authority’s performance as well as oversight for abuse and misinterpretation of the labour laws due to unlawful influence and bribery caused by foreigners who work and stay in Nepal against.